A few months ago, Victoria police chief Frank Elsner was approached by a man who’d been the victim of a theft three times in the last two months.
The first time his laptop (visible from the outside) was swiped from his unlocked home. The second time his bikes were stolen from a garage that had doors left open overnight. The third time golf clubs were taken from the front seat of his unlocked car.
Elsner calls Victoria an “extremely safe” city to live, but noted there’s only so much police can do to prevent members of the public from becoming victims of crime.
“My own personal philosophy is target harden your own space,” said Elsner. “Everyone has a responsibility to secure their own community. Don’t become victimized in the first place.”
When it comes to crime in Victoria, statistics show the most common problem is theft.
From January to the end of October, there were 1,063 thefts, which include shoplifting, stolen cell phones and bikes.
There has also been 247 break-and-enters into residences (down 11.5 per cent from last year) and 196 break-and-enters into businesses (up 4.3 per cent from last year.)
In the same time period, there were 115 sex offences, 967 thefts from vehicles, and 1,196 reports of assaults, which can range from bar thefts and drug debts, to common assaults among people known to each other. There’s also been 92 robberies, ranging from a simple push to masked men brandishing a weapon at a medical marijuana dispensary.
Elsner noted much of the crime happens downtown where not a lot of people live. Many of the thefts are crimes of opportunity and pertain to bikes stolen out of people’s yards.
In order to help combat bike thefts, police started a bike registry last July that now has more than 450 bikes registered. The registration helps officers reunite found or seized bikes with their rightful owners in a timely manner. It has also decreased the number of stolen bikes and increased the amount of bikes recovered.
“What we found was over a 50 per cent increase in the number of bikes that we can return to owners,” said Elsner, adding he was happy with that number.
When it comes to preventing crime, officers go to the department’s operations council, which regularly identifies areas of priority within Victoria and Esquimalt. The priority areas are selected based on the analysis of crime and disorder trends in addition to the consideration of “community intelligence,” and is something police haven’t typically done in the past. So far, Elsner said police have had some great success.
“I call it the Gretzky model. Gretzky was successful because he wasn’t where the puck was, but where it was going to be. We want to be able to put our officers in the best position to be successful,” he said. “Through our analytics we can determine where crimes are more likely to be committed and put our officers in those areas to be proactive and successful.”
The first week of the month was crime prevention week in B.C. For more information on how to prevent crime visit vicpd.ca.