Violence and thefts from vehicles are pushing up crime on the Saanich Peninsula, reversing a trend that has seen years of declining crime rates.
Staff Sergeant Wayne Conley of the Sidney North Saanich RCMP says people have become complacent and that has allowed criminals access to unlocked vehicles and homes. In the second quarter of 2017 (April to July), property crime jumped 39 per cent over the same time last year. That’s an increase to 166 cases, over 119 in 2016. In his report to Sidney town council this week, Conley indicated property crimes are “well above the five-year average of 153 offences.”
“Sidney has enjoyed many years of low crime rates,” he continued. “It seems that this is changing, specifically when it comes to property crime.”
The first seven months of 2017 did not, however, record the highest number of property crime offences in Sidney. In the previous five years, the same seven-month period in 2012 saw 196 property crime cases. Those numbers had been declining steadily — until this year.
Contributing to this year’s numbers so far, was a 360 per cent increase in the number of bikes stolen. Put in perspective however, that was a jump to nine cases, versus two a year ago.
Thefts from vehicles increased to 42 this year so far, compared with only 19 in the same time frame last year.
Vehicle thefts also saw a big jump — three incidents, versus only 1 in 2016.
Sidney town councillor Mervyn Lougher-Goodey asked Conley whether Sidney has a problem with people simply not locking their doors. Conley said that has been the case in the majority of thefts from vehicles. As well, people leaving items in vehicles contributes to those crimes of opportunity, he added.
In July, the RCMP arrested three youth after they were seen breaking into cars in the Dean Park residential area of North Saanich. Conley said those three had a “history among them.” In Sidney, Conley said the main hot spots for this crime are the downtown core residential area and along Maryland Drive.
Violent incidents are also affecting Sidney’s crime rate this year. To date, the RCMP has recorded a 45 per cent increase in violent crime in the same period in 2016 — the main contributor being a jump in harassment and threats.
By the numbers, harassment cases have gone from seven in the second quarter of 2016, to 14 this year to date. Threats have gone from six to nine and sex offences went from zero to five.
There were drops in actual assaults (-14%), domestic violence (-20%) and extortion (-100%).
Drug cases also dropped over the first seven months of 2017, by a total of 27 per cent.
There have been no fatal car crashed this year, but non-fatal incidents went from four a year ago, to eight now.
Impaired driving has seen an overall drop by 41 per cent and moving infractions (speeding, seat belts, distracted driving) declined by 47 per cent.
The latter, noted Conley, might be attributable to the fact that the detachment has not had a dedicated traffic officer for a year. Violation tickets, as a result, dropped to 608 so far this year, compared with 1,156 in 2016. Conley said once new officers are trained up, he hopes to have them pursuing traffic violations soon.
To combat crime in Sidney and North Saanich, Conley said the detachment has four main focus areas. Officers, he said, are paying special attention to impaired and distracted driving, property crimes, drug trafficking and increasing their presence in Sidney’s downtown core to address panhandling and other issues.