Overall, Calgary crime dropped in 2020, but Calgary’s police chief said it will likely get back to near-normal as the city emerges from COVID-19.
The Calgary Police Service presented their annual report at Wednesday’s Community and Protective Services committee meeting.
According to Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld, the most significant changes was an 11 per cent decrease in violent crime throughout the city compared to 2019. Chief Neufeld said the decrease is partially because of the major and sudden societal shifts last year.
Despite the decrease, Neufeld said violent crime is still six per cent higher than the five-year average.
He expects the 2020 decrease will be short-lived.
“The trends will return to something resembling the existing pre-COVID trends as we contemplate moving into a post-pandemic environment,” Chief Neufeld said.
“Things like office closures, the shutting of businesses, closures of public spaces, restrictions on gatherings, and sweeping travel restrictions had significant short term impact on people’s activities, and resulting crime and disorder.”
Unlike other areas of Alberta, Calgary didn’t see an increase in domestic violence calls throughout the duration of the pandemic. Neufeld said there were more calls for police to attend non-criminal domestic violence. Calgary didn’t see an increase in reporting of domestic violence incidents.
“We knew from reports and other jurisdictions there was potential for that to happen. We put a significant prevention effort into awareness campaigns and working closely with our partners to try to address that potential proactively,” said Neufeld.
“The numbers indicate that people were calling for assistance and support but prior to violent acts being committed, so we take that as a positive from the numbers.”
Property crime and gang related shootings decreased; homicide rate increased
Property crimes also decreased 16 per cent in Calgary, and there was a lower commercial break-in rate than expected.
“During the lockdown, other cities noticed an increase in commercial break and enters. By anticipating this, and increasing proactive patrols, particularly in industrial areas when businesses were shut down, we were able to manage this potential,” said Neufeld.
Neufeld also pointed out that last year saw shootings related to organized crime drop from 50 per cent of calls to just 16 per cent. Police seized 1,191 guns, almost half of which were categorized as crime guns. Neufeld defined a crime gun as one “that’s lawfully seized in a criminal investigation that is unlawfully used, possessed or stored.”
While crime across several areas was down in Calgary in 2020, homicide rates spiked with 34 last year. This is significantly higher than the five-year average of 26. Neufeld says that charges have been laid in 80 per cent of these cases ,with the remainder still under investigation.
Decrease in number of fines led to decreased revenue
Neufeld says Calgary Police couldn’t escape the budgetary difficulties brought on by 2020.
Fewer vehicles on the road led to a significant decrease in fine revenue. That has carried over from 2020.
The police had already been dealing with the province’s increase in their take of fine revenue.
Neufeld said COVID-19’s impact on summonses has also negatively impacted the revenue stream of CPS. He said that court closures, and a general lag in fine payments, have also impacted cash flow.
“(Drivers) may just wait until they go to re-register their vehicle at the end of the year and then they pay their fines at the registrar’s office. So, the money doesn’t flow through to the police service until the fines are actually paid from the province,” Neufeld said.
It’s expected that diminished revenue will carry into 2021; Neufeld says CPS is projecting a $13 million deficit, which will likely continue into 2021 and 2022.