Regina Police Service (RPS) Chief Evan Bray said it’s harder to be a cop now than it was when he joined the force over 20 years ago.
The RPS’s midyear crime stats show the highest amounts of crime in a decade, over 11,000 offences so far in 2019.
“I don’t know if we go a night where we don’t hear about some firearm-related offence happening in our city. Five years ago that wasn’t happening,” Bray said.
It’s not all bad news; overall crimes against people are down five per cent compared to last year. However, the increased prevalence of firearms in Regina is leading to greater crime severity.
For instance, the attempted murder rate climbed from five instances in the first six months of 2018 to 23 in the same timeframe this year. The homicide rate remains within the 10-year average at five.
Overall, assaults are on a downward trend, with police tracking a 9.1 per cent decline compared to last year.
Police chases saw a 130 per cent increase in 2018 over 2017, growing from 20 to 46. Bray said these incidents usually include finding drugs or firearms in a suspect vehicle.
There is a national discussion about a handgun ban, but Bray doesn’t think that would be the right solution to address Regina’s firearm issues.
“Banning something doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not going to have firearm-related crime in your community. So we need to come at it from a few different angles,” he said.
The chief pointed to federal legislation increasing security measures for storing firearms at retail stores as a positive example.
According to Bray, most firearm crime in Regina involves either long guns or shotguns. He added that sometimes firearms will be modified, such as the barrel being sawn-down to make it easier to conceal the weapon.
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) is discussing a number of measures, including ways to track firearms. This is an idea Bray put his support behind.
“From the day that they’re sold legally to the day they’re used illegally, how does it transfer there and what can we do to prevent that from happening?” Bray queried.
Previously, the RPS have seen success with gun amnesty programs, getting “unwanted” guns off the street. The rationale is now they won’t be able to be stolen or misused.
With the growing amount of gun crime, Bray worries the Queen City is becoming desensitized to this kind of violence.
“Ten years ago if there was a shooting in the city it was front-page news,” he said.
“It was something we were all talking about. Now, the prevalence of firearms and firearm-related crime is so common unfortunately it’s not something that shocks people when they hear that it happens.”
Property crimes continue to rise
Property crime is the biggest factor in the rising crime rate, with 7,410 offences, two-thirds of total crime. That’s a 10-year high and 16 per cent increase over mid-year 2018.
Vehicle thefts shot up 16 per cent over last year, with 794 reported incidents.
Theft makes up about 32 per cent of total crime in Regina, including basic theft, shoplifting and thefts from vehicles. This type of crime saw a 20 per cent increase, mostly driven by theft under the misdemeanour theft under $5,000.
Identify theft and fraud came close to doubling, going from 65 instances in mid-year 2018 to 106.
On the bright side, break and enters are down 5.6 per cent year-over-year. Bray said garages, sheds and construction sites are among the most popular targets.
Once again, police encourage residents to lock doors of garages, sheds and vehicles – along with removing valuable objects in an effort to make themselves less attractive targets for thieves.
Pot taking the high out of drug charges
Police knew last October’s legalization of cannabis would lead to a reduction in drug charges. That’s been the case for the RPS with a 42 per cent drop at mid-year.
What’s been a surprise for police is how inexpensive legalization has been. In early 2018, Bray told Regina city council police estimated legalization would cost the RPS between $1.2 and $1.8 million.
Bray said they have seen no significant cost increases associated with legalization.
“We’ve done obviously some very concentrated efforts on illegal dispensaries in the city. That did have a cost associated to it,” Bray said, referencing their pre-legalization busts of illegal dispensaries.
Bray added they still haven’t charged anyone for drug-impaired driving who was solely on cannabis.