Edmonton police chief ‘not really surprised’ by surge in crime rates

Police-reported crime in Canada went up last year for the first time in 12 years, Statistics Canada revealed on Wednesday, with Alberta bearing the brunt of the increases.

“No real shock,” Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht said. “We kind of anticipated this. We know property crimes continue to go up again this year – that’s driving it. The big driver is break and enters, thefts from vehicles and thefts of vehicles… and it continues to cascade into 2016.”

Canada’s Crime Severity Index (CSI) – that measures both the volume and severity of police-reported crime – and the overall crime rate both grew between 2014 and 2015, with the CSI up five per cent.

Alberta’s CSI jumped by 18 per cent. That’s the largest spike seen in any province or territory since at least 2010.

“Not really surprised,” Knecht reiterated. “Always disappointed that the numbers are going up but there’s very little we can do about it given the economic times, the tough economic times.”

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Edmonton’s police chief believes Alberta’s downturn is to blame, a statement he’s made before.

READ MORE: Edmonton police clarify stance on crime spike being linked to oilpatch woes 

“By and large – I think that’s a huge factor,” Knecht said. “There seems to be a correlation between the drop in the price of oil and the increase in crime in Edmonton.”

“We had an extremely robust economy,” he added. “We were the epicentre for economic growth for the entire country. Now we’ve gone from feast to famine in a really short period of time.”

READ MORE: Violent crime surge upward in Canada for the first time in 12 years 

The other major oil-producing provinces, including Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador, also experienced significant increases in property crime as their economies struggled with the falling price of oil. According to Statistics Canada, the nationwide rise in the CSI was primarily the result of a sharp increase in incidents of fraud, breaking and entering, robbery and homicide.

WATCH: For the first time in 12 years, police-reported crime in Canada has gone up and considerably so here in Alberta. Kendra Slugoski gets local reaction.

Click to play video: 'Alberta leads nationwide crime rate increase'
Alberta leads nationwide crime rate increase

“Interestingly enough, we don’t have a high violent crime rate,” Knecht said. “Other violent crimes – other than homicides – are actually down right now. Over a five-year period…we’re just trending evenly over the last five years.

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“Violent crime hasn’t been taking the big jumps that property crime has. Our rates are all driven by property crime and they are significant.”

But officers can’t be everywhere all the time. In fact, the higher volume of calls means police are run off their feet.

“We are going from call to call to call all shift long,” Knecht said.

READ MORE: Spruce Grove mayor ‘mad as hell’ over recent crime spike

The Edmonton Police Service is meeting its seven-minute response time goal roughly 70 per cent of the time for emergencies, the chief said. But for non-emergencies, people should expect to wait.

“We have to prioritize,” Knecht explained. “We try to sensitize the public to the fact that if it’s an non-emergent crime, a non-violent crime, it’s going to take us a little while longer to get there.”

To reduce the likelihood of being a victim of property crime, he suggests locking your vehicle and keeping anything of value out of sight.

Knecht thinks another thing driving up the crime rate is an increase in reporting.

“I think more people are reporting crimes, certainly with the accessibility of online reporting of crime. We see a 56 per cent increase in folks that are exercising that opportunity.”

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