BARRHEAD – Despite the lifting of public health measures Barrhead's crime rate is still trending downward, according to Barrhead RCMP Sgt. Bob Dodds.
He told County of Barrhead councillors during their May 3 meeting that 2021 was the slowest the detachment has seen in several years, and for the most part, the trend seems to have continued into the first quarter of 2022.
From January to March, the detachment dealt with 176 total criminal complaints. This is the lowest number in five years. The second lowest was in 2021, with 183 total Criminal Code complaints, while 2018 was the highest at 234.
In the person crime (crimes committed directly against people) category, the detachment received 38 complaints, with assaults leading the way at 20. The next highest category was uttering threats, followed by sexual assaults, criminal harassment, sexual offences other than assault and extortion at seven, five, three, two and one. No robbery, kidnapping or offences related to death were reported.
While personal crimes overall are at a five-year low (the highest was 2020 at 58), when compared to the first three months, Dodds said the two exceptions were assault and sexual assault, which saw increases over the same period. In 2021, there were three sexual assaults reported and 15 assaults compared to 20 assaults and five sexual assaults over the same period this year.
On the property side, theft under $5,000 leads the way at 32, followed by break and enter at 25, mischief (damage to property) at 17 and fraud at 15. Motor vehicle theft, possession of stolen goods, miscellaneous mischief, arson and theft over $5,000 rounded off the bottom categories with 12, three, three, two and one complaints reported.
While the overall crime statistics are static or are trending downward, the exception is the County of Barrhead, which for some reason, Dodds said, seems to be on an upward trend.
So far this year, he said there are 65 total Criminal Code files compared to 38 in 2021.
"It was a little bit of a slap in the face," Dodds said, adding when he pulled up the stats for the county, he expected to see the same overall downward trend.
However, he said after doing a bit of a deep dive with Cpl. Fil Vicente, they realized that many of those files were self-generated.
"There are a couple of places in the county where we can go and find a stolen car, or someone leaving with drugs, or something like that," Dodds said. "Because the numbers are down across the board in the detachment area, it has allowed our members to be more proactive, and we are finding more criminal stuff in the county."
The other increase in RCMP activity is the number of motor vehicle collisions reported. In the first quarter of 2022, there have been 100 motor vehicle collisions compared to 75 in 2021.
The majority of the collisions, Dodds said, have been animal strikes, but earlier in the winter, police did attend several weather-related accidents.
The decrease in complaint files, he said, has also allowed members to do more traffic enforcement.
"One of the most common traffic-related violations we are seeing is people driving with expired plates," he said.
In early February, during a visit to County of Barrhead council, Dodds said traffic stops allow officers to do more than just issue a ticket or warning.
"Every traffic stop, regardless of whether a ticket is written, gives members a chance to observe," he said. "And with sharp eyes, an officer can pick up a lot of things."
Reeve Doug Drozd asked if the properties Dodds referred to earlier are usually the same trouble spots he has talked about before.
"Yes," Dodds replied, noting that in addition to officers doing more enforcement and patrols of the properties, they are also enlisting the help of neighbourhood residents.
"We are encouraging them to follow through with the SCAN (Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods) process," he said.
The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act gives Alberta Sheriffs the authority to target problem properties through civil enforcement.
"The SCAN process has to be initiated by the public and not police," Dodds said, adding he knows of at least one resident who has used the program in which the public can report problem properties online. "It is the perfect circumstance for SCAN property because it is a rental property, and there is a great deal of drug trafficking there."
He added police successfully executed a drug warrant on the property, and it is still the centre of a lot of criminal activity.
"Last week we got a stolen vehicle out of there and a person who had arrest warrants out on them," Dodd said.