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Despite how Edmontonians perceived their safety in 2021, crime was down: report

An Edmonton Police Services logo is shown at a press conference in Edmonton on October 2, 2017. The Canadian Press

The overall rate of crime is down 17 per cent in Edmonton, despite public perceptions around safety, according to the Edmonton Police Commission.

The commission presented an annual report for 2021 to city council Tuesday.

The report said the rate of violent crime was down six per cent and property crime was down 12 per cent in 2021. However, surveyed Edmontonians feel less safe in the city compared to the year before.

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Lori Lorenz, executive director of EPS’s value and impact division, said that could be because crimes are more severe.

“While the number of reported crimes decreased, the level of violence within the crime has increased,” said Lorenz.

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In a similar trend, 911 received fewer calls, but the calls were more complex, according to the report.

“Even though our dispatch calls for service have decreased, our workload has not gone down,” said Lorenz.

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The report details how many calls to 911 were received and what priority they were given. Of the 911 calls, 1.4 per cent were priority one, meaning a person was at risk, while 0.3 per cent were priority two, meaning property was at risk.

The majority of calls to police were priority four and five for crimes that weren’t in progress at the time of the call, such as responding to a shoplifter or a property owner discovering vandalism on their property the day after it happened.

The annual report said Edmonton’s crime rate has fallen faster amid the COVID-19 pandemic than the provincial and national average.

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The types of violent crimes that increased the most were sexual assault, sexual interference and assault. The rate of robbery and assault with a weapon decreased.

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Almost 900 people were referred to EPS’ Human-centered Engagement and Liaison Partnership (HELP) program. The program partners EPS officers with outreach workers from Boyle Street Community Services and the Mustard Seed. The goal is to keep vulnerable people out of the “arrest, remand, release” cycle by connecting them to supports and programs.

There was a nearly 20 per cent increase in police using force in 2021. The report said under one per cent of police interactions resulted in the use of force in 2021.

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EPS also tracks diversity in senior positions. In 2021, 80 per cent of senior positions were held by men. The report said only eight per cent were held by racialized people and 12 per cent were Indigenous people.

Funding for the police will be discussed in the coming weeks as city council debates the proposed 2023-2026 operating budget.

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