Estevan Police Service members responded to more complaints and incidents, and handed out more tickets, in 2013 than they did in 2012, but the numbers of charges in many categories were down.
Numbers released by Police Chief Del Block on January 13 showed that the police dealt with 9,177 complaints and incidents in 2013, compared to 8,627 in 2012, an increase of 6.5 per cent. And they laid 4,654 charges last year, versus 3,602 in 2012.
But the increase for incidents and charges was thanks to provincial traffic offences, such as speeding. The EPS issued 3,955 traffic charges last year, compared with 2,475 in 2012, which is about 60 per cent.
“That's a result of the traffic section,” Block said. “We created a full-time traffic section last year, so we have members out there who are dedicated to full-time traffic enforcement.”
Included in the traffic offences for 2013 were 1,024 speeding violations, which is a lot for a community the size of Estevan, he said.
The traffic safety unit will continue to patrol Estevan's streets in 2014, too.
“We've had some really positive feedback from the public,” said Block. “We've had some negative feedback, too, from people that are getting the tickets, but people who are observing the traffic (are seeing motorists slow down).”
Two other crimes had notable increases last year. Impaired driving charges and other impaired operation offences increased from 98 to 226, which is a jump of about 131 per cent.
“Part of that is having the resources and the members to be out on patrol, and being able to intercept those impaired drivers,” said Block. “But on the other hand, it's concerning that people are still choosing to drive after they've been drinking.”
The Report Impaired Drivers program has resulted in more people calling in impaired drivers, he said, and that has resulted in more charges.
There were also 109 charges for drug possession last year, compared with 76 the year before.
“The indication is that drugs are still a problem,” Block said.
The number of trafficking charges dropped from 54 to 39, but Block said that's because local police didn't have a large drug investigation with undercover officers last year.
There were decreases for numerous charges last year, including:
*The number of criminal code traffic charges classified as "other," such as driving while disqualified and failing to remain at the scene of an accident, dropped from 99 in 2012 to 72 in 2013, a 27 per cent decrease.
*The number of provincial statute violations plunged from 1,199 to 923 (23 per cent).
*Criminal Code violations described as other – such as failing to comply with court orders, disturbing the peace, trespassing and obstructing a police officer – dropped from 446 to 393 (12 per cent).
*Sexual offences dropped from 24 to 15 (37 per cent).
*Crimes against a person – such as robberies, intimidation, criminal harassment and threats – dropped from 155 to 124 (20 per cent).
*Assaults declined from 162 to 132 (18.5 per cent).
*Theft under $5,000 incidents went from 277 to 211 (23 per cent), and theft over $5,000 complaints went from 38 to 27 (30 per cent).
*Twelve people were charged with possession of stolen goods, compared with 26 in 2012, which is more than a 50 per cent decrease. Block noted that some people who caused problems in 2012 were incarcerated last year.
*Break-and-enters decreased from 63 to 37 (41 per cent).
“I think that's a direct result of having the resources to do the job, and for the staff to be out there,” said Block. “If you're not out there, and you're not visible, and you're not doing your job, those numbers go up.
“I think with the enforcement we've been doing, and with some of the programs that we've been doing, it's starting to pay off and turn the other way.”
Block attributed a couple of other decreases to the absence of a bylaw officer for most of the year. The number of municipal bylaw charges dropped by 56 per cent, and the municipal bylaw charges classified as other, such as parking, were down 35 per cent.
A new bylaw officer was hired just before Christmas.
Block said that people should be able to feel safe in Estevan. While the number of infractions was up, the number of crimes against people and property were down, and those are areas in which police want to see declines.