A Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) report shows violent crime increased by 10 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018 and the five-year average.
The report laid out last year’s crime statistics.
It commented on the city’s record-setting number of homicides, which was 16. That is a 60 per cent increase from 2018.
The SPS said an increase in violent crime was a theme across the country.
Chief Troy Cooper said there are a number of factors that relate to a higher violent crime rate.
Cooper and several officers presented the report at the April 23 Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners meeting.
He said because of the number of violent crime investigations, resources were stretched thin.
Cooper noted when police are able to have an increased presence in a community, it brings offences down in that area.
“It was extremely difficult because when we have those complicated investigations and those serious investigations, the resources that we would’ve put in some of those preventative areas were attached to responding to violent crime. When you’re busy like that, unfortunately, all of your community-based initiatives suffer because it’s all hands on deck,” he said.
A University of Regina criminologist said that was a trend across the region.
“I think that this is a Saskatchewan trend. In the province, (homicides) increased from 34 in 2018 to 52 in 2019. So it’s not only a Saskatoon problem. It’s happening all throughout the province,” Rick Ruddell told Global News.
The police studies chair for the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan added that 2019 could be an anomaly.
“Sometimes, rates are just one year sort of uncharacteristic. It might not be all that meaningful in terms of a one-year increase. You really have to look at it in terms of the prior five or six years and those rates are quite a bit more stable,” he said.
The report stated a number of the homicides in the city took place in similar geographic areas and police adjusted resources to account for this.
“In response to increasing violent crime the Saskatoon Police Service has restructured its Criminal Investigations Division and has refocused an existing partnership with the RCMP in the creation of the Integrated Crime Reduction team,” the report read.
It went on to say that team and the drug and gang unit will focus on the violent crime taking place in the city.
The mayor noted city council increased the SPS budget to allocate space for 11 new officers in 2020.
“It became clear, especially in the last half of last year that we needed to give more resources out to the community to address the complexity of these challenges. And our police service also looking at systems of things like community safety officers and the ability to have more presence of members on the street or a uniformed presence,” Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said.
He also touted the Safe Community Action Alliance’s plans for a coordinated effort with frontline agencies to tackle social issues to alleviate the stress on police.
“I’ve seen a higher level of coordination and cooperation in the last couple of years than I’ve seen in the history of well over a decade of working on these issues in the community. But we really need that cooperation from the provincial government, from the departments of justice, health, social services and we have to stop people from getting into lives of crime in the first place,” Clark said.
Ruddell also says gang violence is a factor in higher violent crime rates in the city.
“Nationally, about 20 per cent of homicides are confirmed to be gang-related and I think in Saskatoon and Regina, that percentage is quite a bit higher than 20 per cent. That gang problem is a significant problem in the prairies,” he said.
The SPS report also said reported sexual violations increased 18 per cent compared to 2018.
However, it said that increase is likely due to increased awareness and reporting of those crimes.
The report also said overall crime and property crime had decreased in 2019.