Edmonton city police saw a 17 per cent reduction in reported crime in 2020, however Chief Dale McFee says a rise of violence in those calls is concerning.
Data provided to Postmedia shows Edmonton Police Services (EPS) saw 185,004 dispatched calls for service in 2020, down from 192,645 in 2019. From those calls, officers generated 177,947 files in which a report was made, down from 206,869 in the prior year.
The drop in calls to police resulted in the Edmonton’s Crime Severity Index (CSI) rating plunging by eight per cent — the largest decrease in nearly 10 years. CSI is a number used to evaluate both the overall number of crimes occurring in a city as well as the seriousness of those crimes.
“We seem to be having a lot of successes through some of the balanced targeted enforcement,” said McFee. “What that means is we’ve had a lot more success taking firearms off the street and that’s where a lot of our harm’s obviously created, and we’ve also had a lot of success taking meth off the street.”
Rise in violent crime
While calls for services, official reports and the CSI were all down, McFee said he is still concerned over the rise of violent crimes in the city over the same period.
Domestic violence violations in 2020 skyrocketed when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, increasing by 15 per cent compared to 2019. Police recorded four domestic homicides last year, compared to two in 2019; and the number of sexual assault violations in 2020 increased by 32 per cent.
Firearm violence in the city also rose over the past year with a recorded 133 people either killed or injured by guns, up from 95.
“I mean, even though we’ve had the biggest reduction (in overall crime), we still have one of the most serious crime issues in this country, for a big city,” said McFee. “I can almost probably assure you that we have one of the highest social problems in this country, too.”
Impacts on first responders
Sgt. Michael Elliott, president of the Edmonton Police Association (EPA), said that as violence within calls goes up, so does the impact it has on first responders. He said when the level of violence in crimes rises, so too does the chance that an officer has to use force.
“If the violence is up, it’s telling that the violence out there that we’re enduring (is up) … the number of complaints are up as well as on the intake side so they all, they all play a factor on your psyche,” said Elliott.
The numbers around calls for service also don’t paint the full picture of how often officers are interacting with the public, he added. The data, for example, doesn’t account for the number of times beat officers interact with people on the street where there is no call for help or incident reported.
“If you look at a beat officer on Whyte Avenue, how many public interactions do they have over the course of a shift? You could have 30, 40, 50 public interactions,” said Elliott. “How many traffic stops occur in the shift? Those are not calls for service, so I’m willing to bet there’s about a million public interactions per year in the city and I’m probably being generous.”