Since most people spent a significant portion of the last year in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was some curiosity about what the crime rate would look like. According to the annual report from the Guelph Police Service, there was a decrease in several different crimes year-over-year in 2020, advancing the trend of a falling local crime rate even though Guelph does see an increase some different areas.
The report, which was included in this past Friday’s information package for council, pegs the decrease in property crimes at nearly 12 per cent in 2020 versus 2019. Break and Enter incidents fell by 11.4 per cent, car theft went down 11.3 per cent, and theft under $5,000 saw a 9.5 per cent decrease. The number of instances of identity theft and identity fraud also went down in 2020, and local fire bugs were setting fewer fires with only three charges of arson in 2020 as opposed to 11 in 2019. Curiously, the only charge that saw an increase was mischief.
When it came to crimes against persons though, those violent crimes increased by 8.6 per cent in 2020. Almost all areas saw an increase including the utterance of threats, criminal harassment, extortion, robbery, and assaults. 2020 was also notable for a decrease in the number of charges for sexual assault (119 last year versus 141 in 2019), and total sexual violations (176 to 199). There were also rare charges in the columns belonging to manslaughter, second degree murder, and first degree murder with one charge in each category.
In other areas, there was a 6.3 per cent increase in the number of Youth Criminal Justice charges in 2020, but a 12.5 per cent decrease in charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. There was also a 20.4 per cent decrease in charges related to Failure to Comply with Conditions and Breach of Probation.
The number of cyber crimes went up in Guelph in 2020 by 37 per cent with an additional 136 occurrences. According to the police, a cyber crime includes the uttering of threats, harassing or annoying contacts, luring, fraud and child pornography. There was also a small increase in hate crimes in 2020; there were 11 reported last year, which is an increase of one from 2019.
All things considered, the total crime rate, not including traffic related crimes, went down by 11.2 per cent in 2020. That’s more than double the dip in crime compared to 2019, when the total crime rate went down by 5.1 per cent when compared to 2018.
If those traffic crimes were included in the overall crime rate it probably would have had an effect on the total decline because Criminal Code traffic occurrences increased by 7.9 per cent in 2020. Although the number of personal injuries and fatalities went down in 2020, the number of impaired driving charges went up, and so did the number of speeding charges.
In keeping with 2020’s demand for more police accountability, especially in relation to interactions with the BIPOC community and other minority groups, the annual report included information on the number of street checks. These are instances where police stopped someone on the street and asked for ID, the practice that’s commonly referred to as “carding.”
In 2020, there were exactly two people who were stopped in a street check, one was a man and the other was a woman, but both were white. According to Guelph Police Chief Gord Cobey, “Due to the very small sample size of attempted collections, the data are not statistically reliable for identifying trends regarding the proportionality of attempted collections in our community.”
Finally, the police dealt with over 72,000 total calls for service in 2020, which was an average of 197 calls per day, but about 3,000 fewer calls than were answered in 2019. While the busiest day of the week remained unchanged – Friday – the busiest month in 2020 was July when COVID restrictions started lifting at the end of the first wave of the pandemic; in 2019, the busiest month was September, when the school year begins.