Rhino's Ramblings - Moose Jaw's Growing Crime Rate Is More Than Stats

By Robert Thomas Opinion/Commentary

It has been the talk of the town as well as on social media for the last couple of years and that is the feeling Moose Jaw has a growing crime rate.

From petty theft of recyclables (bottles and cans) to armed robberies right up to murder the Friendly City is getting Notorious for what I hate to say are all of the wrong reasons.

We have seen the arrival of gangs in the narcotics trade.

Gangs so nasty that when they were evicted from a Downtown apartment gang member(s) came back and attempted to burn the place down. That is how brazen, albeit an isolated few, some of these bottom feeding scum (with no apologies to anyone who might defend them) criminals have become.

Recently Statistics Canada released the 2018 crime statistics for across Canada, including Moose Jaw, and I am sorry to say statistically we are in a cyclical upswing in reported criminal activity.

Criminal activity which according to Moose Jaw Police Service (MJPS) Chief Rick Bourassa is being driven by narcotics addiction – most notably crystal methamphetamine or Meth for short.

Meth has taken not only the Prairies but the province including Moose Jaw by storm and it shows in the recently released Crime Severity Index (CSI) and Violent Crime Severity Indexes (VCSI) for 2018.

So what is the CSI?

Quite simply the CSI is a weighted index of all criminal activity reported to police forces.

By being weighted the index does not simply state how many crimes reported but also assigns a variable value to them. The more severe the crime is the higher the index will go.

In 2018 the CSI for Moose Jaw saw an increase while the more disturbing VCSI percentage wise took a much higher jump.

What you are seeing is a trend which is rising and dipping over a period of annual reports but there is still a move upwards overall. Crime according to the statistics is getting worse.

So what is driving the crime rate?

In his presentation in 2017 presentation to Budget Committee Chief Bourassa attributed the upwards move on narcotics traffic when presenting the MJPS's annual budget.

Although he did not name it at the time the reason for the increase now is mainly due to Meth.

And how do I know this?

It is simple. Since January 1st, 2018 the MJPS found itself under the provincial Freedom of Information legislation and MJ Independent did a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. We asked for all documentation the MJPS had in the last five years.

In that FOI request – which will cost you over $2,000 if you wish to purchase your own copy - what was revealed was the fact Meth had two starts in this community.

For a brief period in 2010 it was here but was unable to gain a toehold. And then just as quickly as it reared its ugly head it disappeared.

Moose Jaw had had its warning shots when it came to crystal methamphetamine.

That all changed according to the FOI documents when Meth reappeared in 2014 in the then Friendly City and for the last five years has been rearing its ugly head in ever increasing numbers.

Although the FOI shows a bit of a dip in Meth charges or a seeming drop in the chemical plague in the community sources tell me it is all based upon time and budget. Less charges do not necessarily mean less Meth but rather the MJPS was working on other matters. There was no budget to deal with it.

There was also something glaringly missing from the redacted documents and that is Chief Bourassa wrote asking about the effects Meth was having on the community but the response was not released.

So let's take a look at the CSI for 2018.

In 2017 the CSI for Moose Jaw was 106.65 but in 2018 the CSI was 121.16 or an increase of 13.61 percent. This after 2017's CSI actually dropped by 18.26 percent from 2016 when it was 116.25.

The year 2014 has a CSI of 90.64. So if you compare 2018's figures with 2014 what you have is approximately a 30 percent increase in just four years. A steady upwards trend.

The VCSI, as previously mentioned, was also up in 2018 from 2017.

In 2018 the VCSI was 104.47 from 2017 when it was 72.27 or an increase of 39.02 percent year over year.

And the VCSI was, like the CSI, was down in 2017 versus 2016. In 2016 the VCSI was 87.92 meaning there was a 17.80 percent drop in 2017's VCSI versus 2016.

It should also be pointed out the VCSI for 2014 was 56.95 whereas by 2018 it was 100.47 or an increase over 45 percent during the five year span.

One thing which should be noted when it comes to the VCSI about a year ago I attended a meeting of the Moose Jaw Board of Police Commissioners where Chief Bourassa stated most of the really bad violence was being perpetuated amongst those in the drug world who knew one another.

The rise of Meth and crime in general can also be found in the MJPS's budget where in 2018 they went over budget for their Serious Crimes Task Force according to the recently released Audited Financial Statement for the City of Moose Jaw.

The MJPS spent $687,655 on its Serious Crimes Task Force in 2018 although $570,000 was budgeted. In 2017 the MJPS spent $330,000 for its Serious Crimes Task Force.

The amount spent on this one task force was up close to 110 percent from 2017 to 2018.

They say crime does not pay but when it comes to the taxpayer believe me we are paying for it.

Now there are those who are going to rightfully say Moose Jaw is no better and no worse than the rest of the province. It’s a type of knee jerk deflection on a problem which is going to have to be dealt with here locally one way or another.

So let’s take a really good look at the provincial statistics.

Well believe it or not province-wide the CSI and VCSI are both slightly down from 2017 to 2018.

Province-wide the CSI was 139.16 in 2018 down from 143.11 in 2017. It is a slight drop of 2.76 percent from 2018 to 2017.

The province-wide VCSI was 138.12 in 2018 versus 145.54 in 2017. Once again it is a slight drop of 5.10 percent from 2018 to 2017.

Statistically speaking Moose Jay’s 2018 CSI and VCSI is below the province-wide rate while percentage wise they are up dramatically compared to what happened on a provincial scale.

We are still behind the provincial averages but we are rapidly catching up statistically speaking.

These are statistics which do not lie. Crime is not as bad in Moose Jaw compared to the provincial indexes but we are catching up to it.

Now here are a couple of things you will not find in the statistics and that is those involved in the drug trade are transient. They move around lots. It is also something Chief Bourassa has mentioned while speaking to Council that being the MJPS has interacted a lot with other police forces because of it.

So I took a look at North Battleford's 2018 CSI and found it to be a whopping 384.57 and a VCSI of 362.11 or three times Moose Jaw's rate.

Or how about Prince Albert, the city Moose Jaw always compares itself to, with its 2018 CSI of 238.04 and VCSI of 288.87. Rates which are over double the severity of Moose Jaw or Meth Jaw.

Then there is Saskatoon with a 2018 CSI of 133.08 and a VCSI of 126.16. Statistically speaking Saskatoon has an approximate 15 point higher CSI but when it comes to the VCSI we lag far behind statically speaking.

And what about just down the road in Regina? Well the Queen City had a 2018 CSI of 132.49 and a VCSI of 123.42. Once again the same approximate 15 point higher CSI and when it comes to the VCSI we lag farther behind statistically speaking.

I suppose it gives us something to cheer about that Moose Jaw is behind the provincial and other city CSI and VCSI numbers that is unless you are a victim of crime.

There are other statistics which show the true extent of the growing Meth crisis and that is percentage-wise the largest group seeking help for addictions is because of Meth. The sad part of this growing crisis is many are under the age of 18. Quite simply we have a growing addictions tragedy right on our doorsteps.

It’s a tragedy which is not going to show up in glaring media headlines produced from regurgitated news releases about fentanyl laced drugs which will kill you immediately but one which will drive an individual for years to come.

Teenagers on the cusp of what should be the start of their journey into adulthood and prosperous careers are about to take a journey into a lifetime of hell.

It’s a journey which will see many of them out walking the neighbourhoods going through cars looking for pocket change to pay for an addiction which in the end will kill them.

The statistics might show Moose Jaw being relatively crime free compared to North Battleford or Prince Albert and give the movers and shakers something to boast about but tell that to someone who has been a victim of crime.

Try to take away the anger, frustration as well as the feeling of being victimized or violated for an innocent crime victim.

It might be something as little as having someone break into and go through your garden shed at night stealing your cans and bottles but it is still wrong.

And that is the statistic I left out until the end the Non Violent Crime Severity Index (NVCSI) which is at 128.31 the highest of the three major indexes reported. An index which went up 8.04 percent from 2017 when it was 118.76.

We are almost on par with Regina and Saskatoon when it comes to this one with our local NVCSI rate rising 20 percent over the last five years.

This is the statistic driving the frustration at coffee shops and on social media it’s real and rising despite those who may try to trivialize it.

For a look at the raw statistics click here.

Editor’s Note - Rhino's Ramblings is an opinion\commentary column which reflects the views of the writer. This week's column was uploaded from the Luhansk region of Ukraine where the writer is presently located.

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