Violent Drug Crimes on the Rise; Tax Payers Will Pay For It.
Not only is crime on the rise but so to is the Moose Jaw Police Service (MJPS) operating budget.
Presented by Chief Rick Bourassa, the MJPS is requesting an operating budget of $9,561,274 in 2018 or a 1.35 per cent increase. Although crime numbers are suspected to have dropped, in 2017, they will still be higher than 2015s total. The final numbers will not be released until July, by Statistics Canada.
The drug trade is the main culprit for the rise in crime Bourassa stated, adding that thefts and break & enters tied to the drug trade are up.
“It was a very busy year for us, so we have a bit of a concern…we've seen an increase in thefts and break and enters, things very typically connected to drug movement,” Bourassa stated.
The police force will spend $10,658,373 but once anticipated fines of $1,097,099 are deducted the final budget request is $9,561,274. Fines are expected to increase by 70% in 2018.
According to the Crime Severity Index (CSI), Moose Jaw’s crime rate increased in 2016 to 116 from 99 in 2015. “Although the CSI has been declining in recent years, it increased in 2015 and 2016, reflecting a shift from less serious to more serious crime,” the MJPS operating budget report stated.
The CSI measures crime based upon the volume and seriousness of individual crimes. It is a standardized measure to ensure uniformity in crime reporting.
Chief Bourassa said that violent crime was “very much connected to the drug trade,” and there is an increase in the use of weapons as well. It matches a shift in culture across North America towards violent crime and acceptance of using weapons, he stated.
The report went on to state that, compared to other centres, Moose Jaw’s CSI was among one of the lowest in the province. In 2012, then police chief Dan Larsen used the Violent Crime CSI (a different CSI measurement) to demonstrate that Moose Jaw had a low crime rate. The Violent Crime CSI was 67 compared to the national average of 85. In 2016, Moose Jaw’s Violent Crime CSI was 84 compared to the national average of 75.
Both the CSI and Violent Crime CSIs are standardized ways of uniformly measuring crime based upon the volume and seriousness of the crimes. MacLeans magazine recently rated Moose Jaw as the the 33rd most dangerous place to live in Canada. That rating was derived largely from the two CSIs.
Reported crimes increased from 3098 Criminal Code incidents in 2015 to 3803 Criminal Code incidents in 2016. MJPS were handling 70 Criminal Code incidents per officer; that's second only to provincial leader Prince Albert, who were handling 83 Criminal Code incidents per officer.
Photo radar is having it's desired effect by slowing drivers down wherever it is in use. The number of traffic tickets decreased in 2016 to 17760 from 21309 in 2015 reflecting more people slowing down in photo radar areas. In 2014, the year before photo radar, the number of traffic tickets was 4956, the report stated.
Legalizing cannabis has seen MJPS take a leading role in legislative discussions. “It won't be free,” he said, the final means to enforce impaired driving laws, when it comes to cannabis, would likely entail a roadside THC test and a blood test to check THC levels. Plus there will be administrative sanctions (roadside license suspensions). The final rollout and legislation is still to be finalized.
MJPS staffs 54 police officers, 19 full-time support staff, 5 Corps of Commissionaire and 10 Victim Services volunteers.
Provincially, MJPS has the lowest number of officers, per capita, of all municipal police forces in the province with 159 officers per 100,000 people.
MJPS will be part of the Province’s Combined Traffic Safety Services/Protection and Response Team (CTSS/PRT) in 2018. CTSS/PRT is an initiative largely targeting rural crime, with the aim of improving traffic safety. It is a combined effort to decrease response times in rural areas, plus an increased police presence to help lower crime. Presently the province funds three MJPS officers who are devoted to specific duties. Under CTSS/PRT the province will fund five police officer positions. Four officers will be part of CTSS/PRT where they will spend one-third of their time doing traffic safety in Moose Jaw and the remainder of their time in the surrounding area. Two officers and two fully outfitted new vehicles will be fully funded by SGI.
Areas the MJPS are working on, are in enhanced responses in the areas of child abuse, sexual assault, mental health intervention, serious crime, illicit drugs and habitual offenders, Bourassa stated. MJPS also participated in many community activities throughout 2017, research shows a more harmonious and inclusive community is a safer community, the report stated.
In 2017 the MJPS operating budget was 21.9% of Moose Jaw’s total operating budget. The 2018 percentage won't be known until the city's budget is finalized. The police budget will now be considered at the main budget meetings January 12 and 13 at City Hall.