Police link rising crime to gangs and drugs

An officer in the Prince Albert Police Service.

Crime rose in Prince Albert during 2016, according to year-end statistics published by the Prince Albert Police Service.

Chief Troy Cooper connects the trend to “a subculture of gangs and drug trafficking.”

Occurrences of all kinds were up 5.78 per cent, to 15,286 cases. Almost all categories of crime were higher than the year before, including violent offences, property offences and drug offences.

The most severe kinds of crime, however, were down from 2015 figures.

There was only one homicide in 2016, the murder of Jonathan Lee Cowan, compared to two the year earlier. Sexual assaults were down more than 16 per cent, falling from 115 to 96 charges. Robberies dropped as well, from a peak in 2015.

But violent crime still rose slightly, driven by a jump in assaults from 684 to 735.

Prince Albert police have been particularly concerned about an influx of guns and drugs into the city last year. The numbers reflect that trend. Weapons violations were up by almost 60 per cent, from 104 to 165 offences. Drug possession was up by half, while trafficking cases saw a smaller bump.

Last year saw a number of major drug busts, including a November operation that seized over a kilogram of cocaine.

According to Chief Troy Cooper, said police have been deploying more resources to fight illegal drugs, especially crystal meth, and the gangs who bring them to Prince Albert. He sees the drug trade as the root of other crimes, especially property offences.

“We have an increase in property crime generally related to the drug trade,” he said. “Weapons and especially firearms have increased, and for the most part it involves a subculture of gangs and drug trafficking.”

The stats show that all forms of property crime went up in 2016, including motor vehicle theft, break and enter and fraud.

For more on this story, please see the Feb. 9 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.