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Crime increases for the first time since 2008

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

For eight straight years, the Region of Durham has seen a reduction in its overall crime numbers, however 2016 broke that streak.

Last year marked the first time since 2011 that the Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) recorded more than 25,000 Criminal Code violations (excluding traffic related offences) and the first increase in total number since 2008.

Across Durham in 2016 there were a total of 25,557 Criminal Code violations, marking an 8.3 per cent increase over 2015, which saw 23,601 violations.

Generally speaking, the largest increases were seen in crimes against other people, which jumped to 5,312, a 9.6 percent increase from 2015. This included increases in all three levels of assault, including a 23.3 per cent increase in Aggravated Assault Level 3 instances and a 30.1 per cent increase in instances of Assault with Weapon or Causing Bodily Harm Level 2. Incidents of Discharging a Firearm with Intent more than doubled over the last year from six to 14.

With that noted, the DRPS saw reductions in a number violations that fall under this same category, including the number of incidents of child luring, which dropped 35.5 per cent from 31 to 20 along with a 57 per cent decrease in the use of a firearm during the commission of an offence and a nearly 34 per cent decrease in the number of harassing phone calls.

In terms of crimes against property, which increased to 15,727, an 8.3 per cent increase from the year before, nearly all types of offences saw general increases over 2015, including  a 6.5 per cent increase in motor vehicle theft, a nearly seven per cent increase in theft, and a six per cent increase in incidents of theft from a motor vehicle. However,  the largest increases was seen in instances of fraud and identity theft, increasing 26.6 per cent and break and enters, jumping 18 per cent. Reductions were seen in the number of arson violations, dropping 29.2 per cent and having stolen goods, decreasing 9.5 per cent.

Large decreases were also seen in violations of the Controlled Substances Act, which dropped 11.3 per cent to 1,293, below the five-year average of 1,694 violations and the incidents of property damage related to a motor vehicle collision dropped 17.5 per cent to 7,533.

Speaking to regional council earlier this year when the preliminary numbers began to point to a possible increase, Chief Paul Martin noted that this was indicative of a trend seen across the province.

“What we have experienced in Durham Region is not uncommon to what we’ve seen across Ontario and, quite frankly, across this country – for the first time in a number of years, crime trends have actually trended up, as opposed to what we’ve seen over the last eight years, where they’ve been trending down,” he said at the time.

In his remarks regarding the official numbers, Martin states it’s hard to tell the future ramifications of the numbers moving forward.

“This could simply be an anomaly or it could be the beginning of a new trend,” he states. “Whatever the case may be, I am fully confident that the women and men of the Durham Regional Police Service are working diligently to keep our communities safe for residents.”

The last year has also seen the DRPS focusing on several initiatives, including campaigns to combat distracted driving. In 2016, the police issued 1,596 tickets to distracted drivers, marking an approximately 41 per cent decrease from the year before. The annual Festive RIDE campaign also took 204 impaired drivers off the road, and while the campaign stopped a total of 13,397 vehicles, more than the year before, fewer people were arrested due to “the combined efforts of public education, proactive policing and the rising popularity of designated driver services,” the report states.

In total, the DRPS responded to 89,834 calls in 2016, and in 241 of those incidents officers used force. Similar to 2015 numbers, this represents a use of force in less than one per cent of calls.