Calls for service increase, along with violence and property crimes for PAPS

Pictured is PAPS Chief Jon Bergen. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

A trend upward in violence and property crime was slightly offset by a reduction in break and enters, the Prince Albert Police Service said in its annual statistics report. 

PAPS released its 2021 report on Jan. 19, which included a total of 41,100 calls for service, an average of 112 per day. These include disturbances, suspicious incidents, weapons complaints, assault and more serious violence. 

“In 2021, our police service responded to a tragic nine homicides, each of which left loved ones and friends devastated and shocked our community,” said PAPS in a news release. 

“Investigators with the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) have laid charges in seven of these homicides and continue to investigate, in addition to suspicious missing persons files and other serious incidents of assault.”

The numbers for 2021 reflect a 1.76 per cent increase over 2020. 

Some positive numbers can be seen, including a 3.58 per cent decrease in the number of victims of assault. 

Officers continue to target areas such as gang activity, weapons offences, drug trafficking and abuse against children, using targeted enforcement units and by working with other agencies. 

In 2021, there were 418 reported break and enters, a drop of 16 per cent from 2020. Fewer homes, business and outbuildings were broken into and the number is the lowest in the last five years. 

There were more property crimes including wilful damage, theft under $5,000 and thefts of motor vehicles between 2021 and 2020, but the final number is still lower than the previous three years, starting in 2017. 

Of the 372 stolen vehicles reported last year, 87 had the keys in the vehicle at the time and 300 were recovered with 85 charges laid as a result. 

Some of the change in property crime is attributed to the ongoing closure of some businesses and organizations that remain closed because of the pandemic. 

Arsons increased from a then-high of 45 in 2020, to 52 in 2021. Most of the arsons were in residences (13) but the next highest number was in garbage bins (11). 

“Poverty, addictions, and mental health concerns continue be a significant factor in the number of property crimes reported each year,” said PAPS. 

A significant increase in reports of voyeurism was noted with two reported in 2020 and 11 last year. 

PAPS says this is in part because of increased public awareness about the consequences of sharing intimate images. 

Last year, 136 firearms were seized, an increase over the five year average of 129, but lower than the high of 167 reported in 2020.

Most of the seized guns from 2021 fall into the other firearm category but 29 were restricted, 28 were rifles, 18 were sawed-off rifles, 19 were shot guns and 11 were sawed-off shot guns. 

Of the seizures, 53 came from vehicles, 37 from residences, 13 from people and 26 were relinquished by their owners. Seven were seized on the street and none were found. 

Last year, there were 84 incidents where guns were brandished or discharged. 

Drug trafficking and possession charges fell in 2021 to 36 incidents of possession and 57 incidents of trafficking. 

In 2020, 64 cases of trafficking were reported and 60 cases of possession. 

The main types of illegal substances seized includes meth, crack cocaine, cocaine, cannabis resin and cannabis marihuana. 

One investigation in particular resulted in a seizure of 1,722 grams of meth and 2,782 grams of cocaine. 

The new Proactive Police Unit, first approved by council in mid-2021, is now active. Its job is to focus on addresses that see a lot of calls for service, targeted enforcement and monitoring of crime trends. 

“This new police unit, while still in its early stages, has already seen success working with homeowners and landlords to reduce calls for service at residential and business addresses, initiate proactive patrols around high-traffic areas across the city – including the downtown bus transfer station and busy shopping areas – and connect individuals who are homeless with supports and services that can help,” said PAPS.

The Community Police Unit has remained focused on visible policing and works with businesses and organizations to address crime trends. Measures include better security and lighting as a deterrent to thieves. 

Community Safety Officers are still tasked with investigating crimes such as graffiti, wilful damage and shoplifting. 

CSOs also do regular patrols through the community. 

Two officers work with trained health professionals through the Police and Crisis Team, responding to mental health-related calls and those involving trauma. 

In the area of human resources, PAPS has hired over a dozen new patrol officers in the last year. Five were the result of newly funded positions and the remainder filled vacancies caused by retirements or resignations. 

The service continues to recruit new officers.