Crime is down overall, according to statistics released by city police, but there are still concerns such as the number of car thefts, which rose last year.
Brandon Police Service Chief Ian Grant said he’s pleased to see both crimes against people, and crimes against property, down overall.
"I’m quite happy with the overall results in 2013," Grant said in an interview on Wednesday.
Total calls for service rose 2.6 per cent to 32,124 in 2013 from 31,286 in 2012. But those calls can include requests for help that aren’t crime-related — for such things as mental health issues or mediating disputes between neighbours.
But statistics that compare 2013 BPS crime figures to those of 2012, which Grant shared with city council earlier this week, show that the number of crimes themselves has gone down.
Crimes against persons — which include homicide, sexual assault, robbery and uttering threats — were down seven per cent altogether. There were 654 such crimes in 2013, and 706 in 2012.
The two crimes that were up in this category were homicides and uttering threats.
There were three homicides in 2013, compared to one in 2012.
Grant pointed out that each of those cases ended successfully with arrests or charges laid.
In two cases — a fatal stabbing on Louise Avenue on March 11, 2013, and a killing at the Motel 6 on April 10, 2013 — both accused were ultimately found not criminally responsible due to mental illness.
The third homicide case is that of Earl Beebe, whose body was found in his Victoria Avenue suite with multiple stab wounds on Dec. 28.
David Andrew Paul was recently arrested and charged with second-degree murder in relation to that case, and the matter is still before the courts.
There were 88 reports of uttering threats in 2013, versus 82 in 2012. Sexual assault and assault rates were down, while the number of robberies remained the same, with 38 reports in each year.
The crimes against property category also saw a drop. In this case, the rate fell six per cent to 2,152 from 2,283.
Arson, break-ins, theft, fraud and vandalism were all down.
However, car theft jumped 30 per cent to 82 reports in 2013 from 63 in 2012.
Grant said the force is trying to educate the public about the need to stop leaving vehicles unlocked with the keys inside, especially as they idle in winter.
"We continue to encourage the public to secure your vehicles, lock your vehicles, definitely don’t leave keys in your vehicles," Grant advised, adding there were 28 cases in which vehicles were stolen after being left unlocked with the keys inside.
He said joyriders or transportation seekers, rather than professional thieves, tend to be behind car thefts in Brandon. Most vehicles are recovered.
Also up was the number of weapon offences (up 35 per cent to 46 cases from 34) and impaired driving (up 43 per cent to 153 from 107).
Part of the increase in weapons offences, Grant said, come from two particular cases where numerous weapons were seized and charges laid.
As for the impaired driving rate, that’s due in part to the Report Impaired Drivers 911 program that encourages citizens to pull over and use their cellphone to report drunk drivers. As a result, citizens are reporting drunk drivers more often.
There was a big jump of 37 per cent in drug offences last year compared to the year previous. That included a 95 per cent increase in drug trafficking.
However, Grant said investigators were busy with a major drug investigation in 2012 — actually, the biggest investigation in force history.
That investigation took resources that were later freed up in 2013 to investigate other cases and that led to the increase in cases for that year.
Officers also wrote five per cent more tickets in 2013 (3,820) than they did in 2012 (3,642), which includes traffic tickets.
Some of those tickets were handed out during various traffic programs that include checkstops and a recent focus on school zones.
Grant blamed bad weather and increased traffic volume for a 22 per cent rise in the number of collisions (up to 1,424 from 1,168).
As for the general drop in the crime rate, Grant pointed out that it could be due to a variety of explanations.
Brandon University criminologist Kevin Wong also points to a number of possible factors when it comes to the falling crime rate.
"In terms of the crime rates, the rates for property and violent offences are consistent with the general trend in Canada," Wong said. "Over the past two decades, there has been a significant decline in the crime rates and the homicide rate."
Wong said it’s possible that the trend is due to an aging population, improving economic conditions in Canada or a shift from street crime toward Internet crime, which makes it tougher to make arrests.
Law enforcement has also shifted its focus on more serious crimes, Wong said, while there’s also a trend toward diverting less serious offences from court or decriminalizing them.
Wong also praised the BPS focus on community policing as a move in the right direction.
The statistics show that there were 396 policing patrols, 198 school presentations and 95 community presentations done in 2013.
Grant said greater police presence — officers walking the streets, for example, or attending events and interacting with people —can make would-be criminals think twice before committing an offence.
» Twitter: @IanHitchen