Saanich Police expect to receive more calls for service, but crime rates remain near historic lows, as Saanich ranks among the safest communities in Canada. (File photo)

Saanich police report rise in calls

Calls for police service are rising, but the local crime rate remains at an historic low.

Sgt. Jereme Leslie of Saanich Police said police received 30,883 calls in 2017 — up from 29,486 calls for service in 2016 and 28,576 calls in 2015, as reported in the police’s department strategic report for 2018-2022.

Looking at 2018 figures so far, Leslie said police have so far received 15,643 calls, with the proviso that this figure may not accurately represent current trend lines.

This said, this information confirms – at least partially – a prediction from the department’s strategic report. It predicts rising calls for services, after documenting increases through 2015 and 2016.

According to the report, calls for service decreased between 2006 and 2013. “However, we are now seeing an increase in the number of calls for service. This increase is consistent with trends in other jurisdiction,” it reads. “This trend is expected to continue.”

These findings, however, appear against the backdrop of historically low crimes rates.

Saanich, according to a 2017 survey, is among the safest communities in Canada. It ranks 181 out of 229 surveyed communities on the Crime Severity Index (CSI), a Statistics Canada measure of all police-reported crime, which takes into consideration both the volume and seriousness of offences. Saanich’s CSI in 2016 was 40 — down two points from 2015 and 30 points less than the national CSI in 2016 of of 70.

Overall, the national CSI has dropped 30 points since 2006, when Statistics Canada set its benchmark, with the addendum that 2015 marked a unique year for crime trends across Canada as the national crime rate (measured as the number of criminal code offences, excluding drug and traffic offences, per 1,000 people) increased for the first time in over a decade. Figures for 2016 show that the national crime remains at 2015 levels.

What accounts for the lower crime rates? Scholars have pointed to several factors. They include legislative changes, especially, but not exclusively in the area of firearms, changing social values with individuals showing more deference for social institutions, economic factors with low crime rates reflecting low inflation rates, and above all, demographics. According to this theory, crime has dropped as the cohort of individuals considered most prone to crime — individuals aged 15 to 24 — has shrunk, with corresponding declines in key categories of crime, such as property crimes and violent crimes.

But if the overall number of crimes has dropped, Saanich police expect a qualitative change in crime, with demographics playing a major role.

While the number of households has grown over the last decade, so has the number of seniors, it reads.

“Currently in Saanich, 20.8 per cent of residents are over the age of 65. At 19 per cent, the percentage of youth aged 19 and younger in Saanich has declined slightly since 2011 when those under age 19 accounted for 20 per cent of the population,” it reads.

In short, seniors already outnumber youth in Saanich, and the report predicts that Saanich police will have to deal with a growing number of seniors-related crimes, including elder abuse.

“A growing population of older adults could impact the rate of elder abuse in Saanich,” it reads. “Addressing this will require focused resources to educate people on recognizing the signs of elder abuse, conducting investigations and referring victims to community resources.”

Saanich police also expects to serve a more diverse community.

“The percentage of Saanich residents who primarily speak a language other than English at home is increasing,” it reads. “This shift requires that Saanich Police invest in being able to provide culturally relevant and language-appropriate service.”

Leslie said Saanich Police have officers, who can speak a range of languages.

“From what I know we have officers who speak English, French, Russian, Ukrainian, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Punjabi, Cantonese, Hindu, Urdu, Tagalog (Philiippines), Arabic and also officers who can sign,” he said.

Overall, the Saanich Police department reported an operating budget of $32.3 million in 2017. Its staff consisted out of 161 police officers and 60 permanent civilian positions.

Ninety-seven per cent of Saanich residents surveyed in 2015 said they were satisfied with the quality of police service.

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