Property crimes – the largest category of crimes in Sidney – declined in 2020 compared to 2019, but violent crimes against person including domestic violence increased last year compared to the previous year.
These findings appear in a new report from Sidney/North Saanich RCMP department before Sidney council. Overall, the report shows that criminal code offences rose by four per cent in 2020 compared to 2019.
Property crimes, which account for 47 per cent of total crimes in 2020 with 275 cases, dropped 22 per cent that year. Property crimes include commercial, residential and other break-and-enter, possession of stolen property, mischief, theft of vehicle, theft from vehicle, arson and fraud.
The 2020 figure appears “well below” the five-year average of 322 offences according to the report – marking a drop compared to previous years. Local police opened 354 files in 2019, 338 in 2018, 350 in 2017, 263 files in 2016 and 305 in 2015.
Looking at specific property crimes, cases of commercial and residential break-and-enter dropped by 71 and 79 per cent respectively in 2020 compared to 2019. Only the categories of fraud and theft (shoplifting) each recorded a six per cent increase.
Crimes against person, a category that includes attempted murder, assault, sex offence, robbery and abduction, rose 30 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, going “slightly above” the five-year average of 106 offences. “It should be noted that 2019 was disproportionately low as compared to the previous (four) years.”
The report blames the increase in crimes against persons on an “increase in assaults, domestic violence, harassment and uttering threats” with cases of assault up six per cent (32 to 34 files) and domestic violence up 13 per cent (15 to 17 files) in 2020 compared to 2019. Cases of harassment rose 71 per cent (jumping from 14 to 24 files) while cases of uttering threats rose 130 per cent (jumping from 10 to 23 cases). Crimes against person account for 19 per cent of all cases in 2020.
These figures give some empirical support to theories that COVID-19 restrictions would cause a spike in more aggressive behaviour, especially in familiar situations. But the report also finds more broadly that the detachment’s coverage area has not seen “a significant change in crime trends” because of COVID-19.
Other criminal code offences (which account for 32 per cent of all criminal code offences) meanwhile rose 68 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 with the report attributing the increase to “substantial increases” in cause disturbances. This last category in turn relates directly to findings elsewhere in the report assessing the impact of COVID-19 on police calls for service.
While calls for police dropped eight per cent across the detachment’s coverage area and police found “no significant change in crime trends,” police recorded a 20 per cent increase in what the report calls “public disorder occurrences.”
The report notes that these calls includes complaints of cause disturbances, panhandling, public intoxication, property damage and unwanted persons.
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