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Estevan's crime severity index dropped in 2021, has to do with the pandemic and more

Estevan Police Service and Estevan RCMP comment on 2021 crime severity index numbers.
Richard Lowen
Estevan Police Chief Richard Lowen

ESTEVAN - The annual crime severity index (CSI), released Aug. 2 by Statistics Canada, was a mixed bag for Estevan. 

The document showed that the city's rating for 2021 stood at 91.13, down from 109.96 the previous year. The 2021 figure is more inline with 2018, when it was at 90.17, and 2019, when it stood at 90.28. 

Estevan Police Chief Rich Lowen said that for EPS, the crime severity index is a tool to better understand the tendencies in the community.  

"It's something we do keep an eye on, but we use it mostly to compare year over year within the city itself. I don't like generally comparing to larger metropolitan areas, I like to use it as an index of what's happening within the city. You just have to understand what the numbers mean to make sure that you're not overreacting to something," Lowen said.  

"If you look at the crime severity index for violent crime, that increased to 155 [for 2021] from 82 in the year before, and that's attributable to the homicide that we had last year. When you have a homicide in an area that hasn't had a homicide in over seven years, it can create a large percentage increase, so you don't want to overreact to something like that. But what we do is we keep an eye on this long-term overall severity index as it moves from year to year. And looking at it from last year, we're moving in a positive direction, which is a good sign." 

After the first alleged homicide in seven years occurred in June of last year, Estevan's violent crime figure stood at 155.06 in 2021, up from 82.10 in 2020.  

Lowen added that a homicide has such a "large weight attributed to it," that it strongly affects the index, so the EPS was expecting to see a significant jump in that number. He added that there was nothing else specific that would dramatically affect the violent crime index for the community. The EPS keeps track of all kinds of violent crimes occurring in the community, and the crime severity index becomes another tool for them to understand the bigger picture better.  

"We keep track of the stats ourselves in Estevan in relation to crimes against persons, crimes against property. So we know where we stand, we know that we're slightly ahead of five-year average, but not dramatically. We keep an eye on those sorts of things as we go over our own statistics, so this is just another measure," Lowen explained.  

While the violent crime index went up a lot, Estevan's non-violent crime number went down a lot and stood at 67.92 in 2021, which was a 43 per cent drop from 119.72 the previous year. Lowen said it was something they expected to see because of the large effect of the pandemic on the community in 2021.  

"I was expecting our non-violent crime to go down just because we were in a pandemic year. And it did what was expected in non-violent [crime] areas, like break-ins. You can imagine how people have changed the way they interact with each other during the pandemic. It changed the way non-violent crime was occurring. So we actually went down in this, which was nice to see," Lowen said. 

"All the non-violent crime is specifically down because of the way the year went last year. With the pandemic, people just changed the way they interacted. We had more online incidents, but we had less incidents within the community … less break and enters, that sort of thing. Businesses were closed, which all had an impact on how property crimes took place." 

While we are emerging from the pandemic-related lifestyle, Lowen noted that it's important to monitor the entire picture as restrictions and COVID-related temporary changes were just a part of the challenges the community is facing.  

"I could say that Estevan has its unique challenges that carry throughout in other cities as well. We carry addictions challenges, we carry mental health challenges, and it's just important to use the resources that you have within the community [including the new PACT Team] to try and balance those challenges," Lowen said.  

Overall, Estevan sat No. 68 in Canada for the CSI. 

Among the six Saskatchewan cities with municipal policing services, Estevan was fifth. Weyburn was the only community lower with a CSI of 77.3. 

North Battleford ranked first in the country at 480.7. 

The Crime Severity Index is a measure of police-reported crime that reflects the relative seriousness of individual offences, and tracks changes in crime severity. 

Statistics Canada also tracked crime severity in rural communities. 

In the case of the Estevan RCMP's area, the CSI was at 63.04, down from 92.90 in 2020 and 96.02 in 2019. 

Estevan RCMP Corporal Craig Park said in their case, the pandemic also affected the numbers.  

The violent crime index was at 57.24, down from 64.30, while the non-violent crime rate was 64.98, well down from 102.97 in 2020, and Park said it's something they saw coming.  

"I would expect [these numbers] to be lower. This can be contributed to a couple of reasons. One, for sure COVID would affect these numbers, as we don't have as many people that are active in the communities, going around during these years at the height of the COVID. [Second], we did do some targeted policing towards our prolific offenders, which also would have contributed to some lower numbers. Given our rural population, we're not going to have the same crime rate as a city or a larger area. So the numbers can be affected one way or another quite easily," Park explained. 

He said that as society comes out of the pandemic, there might be an increase in non-violent crimes again, yet there are a lot of factors coming into play and they put a lot of effort into keeping it safe.  

"There's a lot of things that would contribute to non-violent crime. So as we come out of the pandemic, people become active again, we start having festivals and larger gatherings, I'm sure we'll see those numbers probably increase a little, but I don't expect to see a large increase again given the small numbers we deal with, it doesn't take much to affect them one way or another. But I don't anticipate seeing any large issues or problems," Park said.  

"The area for the most part is a pretty safe area. I don't think we've seen any big fluctuations. The numbers were down slightly." 

The area patrolled by the Carlyle RCMP had a CSI rating of 110.41, up marginally from the 109.29 seen in 2020 but below the 130.82 in 2019. The violent crime severity index stood at 82.63, down from 135.47, while the non-violent CSI was at 120.14, up from 99.61. 

In the Carnduff RCMP area, the CSI was 37.09, down from 48.99 in 2020. The violent crime CSI was at 30.51, down from 42.89 in 2020, while the non-violent CSI was 39.37, compared to 51.07 in 2020. 

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