Prince Albert police are seeing a skyrocketing number of stolen vehicles and people fleeing from police – an issue that’s trickling into accountability for other types of crimes.
So far this year, police have recorded 358 stolen vehicles and 359 calls where people have fled from officers. This equates to 9.7 per week, or 1.4 per day.
“When you start pulling over vehicles and they do not follow that direction, you now have a problem on your hand,” said interim Chief Patrick Nogier.
“That is alarming.”
However, Nogier said, sometimes it’s not safe for the public, police, or the offender to pursue a chase.
Those fleeing are often driving at high speeds, with a lack of recognition for residential areas or public spaces, and usually intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
“We’re not just saying ‘Whatever it takes, do what it takes. Stop the individual,’ because we know that there’s inherent risk,” said Nogier.
But it’s also important to hold people accountable, since many who flee are wanted for “causing chaos in your community,” ranging from vandalism to drive-by shootings.
“The criminal element will start saying ‘Well, all we’ve got to do is run,’” said Nogier, “and that’s a dangerous message.”
“That makes us re-think, how are we going to solve the problem?”
Nogier said the police service is looking into technology, such as drones, to track and stop fleeing suspects. This also includes systems that allow police to shut a vehicle down.
“Those things, they take time. They cost money, they require training and expertise to make sure you’re doing it properly. You’re not going to solve that solution really quickly,” he said.
Nogier said aerial support units, which police use in Saskatoon and Regina, cost $500,000 to get up and running.
There’s currently 650 people wanted for criminal code warrants by the Prince Albert Police Service.
Of those, 424, or 65 per cent, are believed to live in the city and 226, or 35 per cent, are from outside of Prince Albert.
2023 stats trending up from last year
Nogier spoke at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon event on Tuesday about the city’s most recent Crime Severity Index (CSI) rankings for 2022, and how this year compares so far.
“Everything that was trending in 2022 is, unfortunately, trending up in 2023,” he said.
The CSI showed 2022 was the worst for violent crime in the last 12 years. Although Prince Albert’s overall ranking went down from fourth to fifth in Canada, the city remained in third for violent crime and went up to eighth for non-violent crime.
Prince Albert was also the only municipal agency in the top 25 in Canada. The rest were RCMP jurisdictions.
So far this year, violent crime is increasing overall by 14.02 per cent. Criminal harrassment is up by 61.11 per cent, assaults by 16.82 per cent and robberies by 8.26 per cent.
Attempted murders are also up by 250 per cent. However, Nogier said this increase has to do with a difference in reporting, where aggravated assaults are now considered attempted murders.
Prince Albert’s homicide rate is trending down, though, with two homicides so far in 2023 compared to nine in total in 2022.
Nogier said the police service is implementing an alternative call response. With this method, calls are prioritized and triaged through another mechanism if needed.
Previously, officers on a 12-hour shift would typically receive 65 to 75 calls. Minimum staffing is eight officers, but only five or six are on the streets responding to calls.
With the alternative call response, Nogier said, police are down to a more sustainable 45 to 55 calls per shift.