One of the ways to know the current state of affairs with regards to crime prevention is to review the statistics; it is a realistic look at what is happening. This month information for April was presented to town councillors May 22.
Staff Sgt. Cameron Chisholm helped make sense of some of the numbers in the report, which tend to fluctuate from month to month.
“These are basically crimes that are reported to police, and remember that not everything gets reported,” explained Chisholm.
Assault numbers are down for the end of April year-to-date, with 40 assaults compared to 57 in April 2011. Chisholm said there could be a variety of reasons, but police would rather see fewer offences than more.
There were 69 cases of theft under $5,000, an increase of 18 cases. Over the period Chisholm said the range of thefts is fairly large. “It is a wide variety of thefts, you could have theft of utilities.”
As temperatures rise, there tends to be an increase in these types of theft, what Chisholm called “seasonal crimes.” Minus 30 degree C weather could be a deterrent.
There were 66 cases of reportable property damage from motor vehicle accidents; reportable means any damage over $2,000 must be reported to police, down from 88 last year. What Chisholm is more concerned with is the number of injuries and fatalities from these accidents. Lowering the number of injuries can decrease the money being spent for health care.
“Injuries not only impact the quality of life of the individual, but also the health system and possibly the legal system,” he explained.
There have been no fatalities and only one injury for the year, the same as last year.
Police have had 82 requests to locate individuals, up from 26 in 2011.
“Most of them are probably overdue kids; runaways under the ward of a guardian, they (guardians) have a duty to report that,” he said.
Chisholm also gave the example of senior Daniel Arsneau who recently went missing from the Centennial Centre.
The report also shows a category called ‘other.’ Chisholm said the crimes that fall under this class are anything besides crimes against persons or property. “It’s an offence like disturb the peace.”
The offender may not necessarily have hurt anyone or stolen anything, but their actions broke the law. Police tend to have a higher clearance rate, or solved crimes, against people rather than property. The difference being if someone is assaulted they generally know who their attacker is, but in the example of items stolen from a car with no witnesses, it can be more difficult to find the culprits.
Chisholm said police evaluate their work to find trends in criminal activity, but there is no real way for them to know why statistics fluctuate, except to conduct an in-depth study. “It could be a variety of things.”
The report does not show who commits the offences either; police don’t usually see if criminal activity is from residents of Ponoka or people from other municipalities.
“We don’t break our information down by who does what,” he stated.
Police use these reports to get an understanding of what is happening in town. Their goal though is to have the highest number of cases solved and to keep the community safe.
“We’re not in it for reports, we’re in it to solve crime and make the community safer,” he stated.
By Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye