Domestic violence down, gun violence up in 2020: Calgary police

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The coronavirus pandemic has evaded expectations of crime in Calgary.

On Tuesday, the Calgary Police Commission heard a summary of crime statistics in 2020 from the Calgary Police Service (CPS), with some surprises.

“There [have] been concerns raised across the country regarding the increases in domestic violence during COVID,” Deputy Chief Paul Cook told the commission. “Unlike other jurisdictions, the CPS has not seen the same increases.

“We have monitored all domestic-related calls for service since COVID began, and the trend has remained the same.”

Read more: Reading between the lines of Calgary’s domestic violence statistics during the COVID-19 pandemic

CPS stats show domestic violence in the city is down 13 per cent from 2019 and nine per cent below the five-year average.

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Domestic homicides are down, with five fatalities in 2020 and eight in 2019.

But “non-criminal calls for service” have been up since the start of the pandemic, police said.

“This shows that members of the public are calling police before the situation escalates to violence,” Cook said. “It is encouraging to see they are calling police seeking assistance and support.”

Read more: ‘Deeply disturbing statistics’ show COVID-19 is hurting kids’ safety: report

Cook said CPS call assessors anecdotally note that stressors like coronavirus-related layoffs and custody often spark verbal arguments.

Suicide-related calls to CPS were down in 2020 as well, the deputy chief noted.

“Our partners in mental health crisis intervention are reporting increased access to helplines and services,” he said.

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In 2020, the police commission expressed concerns about increased sexual assaults during the pandemic.

“Again, our data and investigations do not show big shifts due to COVID,” Cook reported, saying assigned sex crime files were down 11 per cent from 2019 levels. Cook said April and December — months when the public health restrictions were tightest — had the greatest decreases of file assignments to investigators.

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But child abuse files increased by 10 per cent over the year prior, and by 22 per cent over the five-year average.

Cook said CPS and partner organizations that try to address domestic violence have to stay vigilant, encouraging victims to come forward and report incidents, to “intervene and disrupt the cycle of violence.”

Gun violence up

Calgary recorded 112 shootings in 2020, a record number for the city that represented a 23 per cent increase over 2019 numbers. The city only had 46 shootings in 2018.

Organized crime shootings counted for 16 per cent of 2020’s shootings.

“We attribute this work to some of the incredible efforts by front-line patrol members, our investigative areas and our partnership bureau in support of our gang strategy,” Cook said.

Read more: ‘Back to square one’: Calls to domestic violence lines jump again as coronavirus surges

CPS believe two-thirds of the shootings were targeted, and have identified suspects in about a third of the incidents.

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“Almost half of all shootings, 49 per cent are driven by conflicts between individuals involved in the drug trade and by known offenders,” Cook said.

“As a result of tireless efforts from front-line patrol members and investigators, we have seized 442 crime guns. This is a 20 per cent increase over 2019, and we’re working on a firearms year-end report that we’ll bring forward to the executive and the police commission in the upcoming months.”

Read more: Keeping Calgarians safe from gun violence: public safety task force proposed

Cook said 16 of the city’s 34 homicides in 2020 involved a gun. Almost a third of those deaths were motivated by organized crime.

Homicides were up citywide from years previous — 20 people were killed in 2019 and 17 in 2018.

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