The Regina Police Service is still seeing a decrease in crime numbers presumed to be related to the pandemic, according to data shared during a board of commissioners meeting on July 27.
The mid-year crime statistics report, provided to board members every year, shows that the city has had an overall decrease of six per cent in reported crimes so far in 2021, compared to the same mid-year report in 2020. Compared to the 10-year average, statistics show a decrease of 12 per cent.
Police Chief Evan Bray estimated that the decreased numbers in several categories are still a result of the COVID-19 pandemic keeping more individuals home and businesses less accessible than previous years.
Crimes against the person and against property were both on the decline, at two per cent and nine per cent compared to 2020 respectively, as were robberies, theft, breaking and entering, mischief and willful damage.
The number of sexual assaults reported so far are higher than the 10-year average, although sex-related crimes of other natures are below that average.
Homicides have increased over the past three years, with a total of seven reported in 2021, while attempted murder charges have steadily decreased to 11, since reaching a peak of 25 in 2019.
Arson cases are more than double the 10-year average, with 151 reported in 2021 so far, in comparison to 67 on average. The RPS had no information to offer regarding the spike in arson happening in the city, but Bray said members continue to investigate.
Drug-related charges are also reportedly on the decline, with 37 per cent less in 2021 than in 2020, although the RPS has seen the number of drug seizures and drug impaired driving offenses continue to rise.
Possession charges involving meth specifically declined for the first time since they began increasing in 2014, with a total of 21 incidents so far this year.
The RPS noted that new direction from the Public Prosecutions Service of Canada in 2020 is likely the reason for the decline, as police now only lay possession charges when offences are serious, in recognition of the health impacts of substance abuse.
Criminal Code traffic violations overall increased by 18 per cent since 2020. Traffic tickets increased by 21 per cent, including those issued by speed cameras, but have decreased by 51 per cent since 2012.
Bray attributed the decline in tickets issued as a result of time constraints, as patrol members are spending more time on each call and the majority of responsibility falls on the traffic division and automated cameras.
“Our officers are busy, to put it bluntly, and so traffic enforcement is something that takes some time, takes some energy to do that kind of enforcement,” said Bray. “The ability to have the free time to run a traffic project in an area is becoming less and less, because of the types of calls we’re on.”
Bray said that the RPS has seen a relatively consistent number of calls to service this year compared to last year, and that the decreasing crime numbers may also be because RPS members are responding to calls differently due to the circumstances.