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Coronavirus: Kingston police see crime rates fluctuate as people urged to stay home

Kingston police are reporting a change in crime rates as more people stay home to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
Kingston police are reporting a change in crime rates as more people stay home to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Global News

The COVID-19 pandemic may be impacting crime rates in Kingston, according to newly released statistics from Kingston police.

As more people heed warnings to stay home and practise social distancing, police say officers are seeing some types of calls reduced drastically while others have spiked.

Kingston police Sgt. Steve Koopman says the police service noticed a big slowdown in calls last week.

“I think we’ve seen the majority of people doing that — self-isolation and staying away from the downtown areas or Kingston, and outside, or their own residential areas, we saw a pretty precipitous drop-off,” Koopman said.

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Crime statistics provided to Global News by Kingston police for the period from March 16 to 22 show a drastic reduction in collisions, noise complaints and shoplifting reports. Break-and-enters and fraud cases were also down by half compared to the same week last year.

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Kingston crime statistics for the week of March 16 to 22, 2020 compared to last year and 2018.
Kingston crime statistics for the week of March 16 to 22, 2020 compared to last year and 2018. Kingston Police

But the figures show some types of incidents also spiked in Kingston last week, including domestic calls. Koopman says that with more people staying home to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, officers are seeing more calls to deal with issues involving family members.

“We do have family dynamics that sometimes can have some tension, some frustrations and perhaps not the best coping skills,” he said.

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Koopman says he’s heard of other police forces seeing a similar increase in domestic incidents since government officials began to appeal for people to stay home.

“When you push those people all together and they don’t have an ability to walk away from the situation, in relation to the fact that they feel there is that social distancing or isolation that needs to occur, that potentially can heat things up,” he said.

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Tensions aren’t just rising within family units. Neighbour disputes resulting in a call to police also shot up last week.

I think, too, there is a lot of anxiety … [and] sometimes a lot of stress in regards of what’s happening here with COVID[-19],” Koopman said.

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When it comes to mental health calls, Koopman says the increase year over year isn’t unusual.

We do know that we always seem to have an increase in mental health calls for service over the years, and I wouldn’t attribute anything massively to that,” he said.

Overall, Kingston police are reporting that calls to police were down 26 per cent last week, compared to the same week in 2019.