It looks like a long winter may have helped to put the chill on crime in Brandon.
The city’s police chief says a long winter and proactive police work are a couple of possible explanations for a drop in reported crime for the first half of this year.
"There’s probably a combination of factors leading to most crime categories being lower," Ian Grant said during an interview on Wednesday.
Winnipeg police reported on Wednesday that the frequency of most crimes in that city dropped in 2012.
In particular, compared to the five-year average, there was a 70 per cent drop in the number of attempted murders and a 33 per cent dip in aggravated assaults.
While Brandon’s homicide rate doesn’t compare to Winnipeg’s, there’s been a recorded dip in crime here too.
According to the statistics the Brandon Police Service posts month-to-month on its website — which show the number of reports made to police for various crimes — overall, their numbers held steady in 2012 compared to 2011.
But, there’s been a drop across the board when it comes to the number of crimes reported in the first six months of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012.
The statistics are based on reports made to police and don’t necessarily reflect cases that resulted in arrests or charges.
For all of 2012 compared to all of 2011, the number of violent crimes reported, such as assaults, fell eight per cent. There were 785 reports last year compared to 853 in the previous year.
Traffic violations, such as impaired and dangerous driving, also dropped 22 per cent to 114 reports.
"Other" Criminal Code violations — which includes weapon offences and public mischief — were down to 1,296 reports from 1,391, a drop of seven per cent.
Youth crime is included in the "other" category, however, and that was up in 2012 by 16 per cent to 147 from 127.
The two areas where reports increased were property crimes, which logged 2,376 reports (up 11 per cent) and drug crime which came to 82 reports (up three per cent).
There was one homicide recorded in 2011 and one in 2012.
The number of crime-related complaints totalled 4,653 in 2012, compared to 4,602 for all of 2011 (up one per cent).
But the statistical picture changed significantly in the first half of 2013 with a drop in complaints almost across the board.
Violent crime was down to 348 reports for January through June, compared to 450 logged in the same period in 2012. That’s a 23 per cent drop.
Crimes against property — such as theft, break and enter, and mischief — was down by 17 per cent overall, to 954 reports from 1,143.
There were 954 reports for property crimes in the first six months of 2013, compared to 1,143 for the first part of 2012.
For those periods, reports of "other" crimes were down 17 per cent, to 539 from 650.
Meanwhile, there was a 25 per cent increase in traffic violations due to reports of impaired drivers, which jumped 32 per cent to 75 from 57.
There have been two homicides recorded so far this year compared to the one recorded for all of 2012.
There appears to be one massive jump when the first half of 2013 is compared to the first half of 2012, but Grant said it’s due to a change in bookkeeping.
In general, prior to January, when it came to drug trafficking, the force only publicly recorded reports that brought arrests and/or charges.
Now, Brandon police publicly record all complaints regarding drug trafficking that were investigated, whether or not they result in arrests or charges.
The switch in statistic keeping led to a blip that showed a 362 per cent jump in drug trafficking reports for the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year, to 120 from 26.
Grant said the statistical anomaly will level out as time goes on and the force continues to use the new method.
Despite the initial confusion the "administrative correction" may have caused, the chief said the change will provide the public with a more accurate picture of drug trafficking activity.
"It’s a glitch that we found in our system. This is probably a more accurate reflection of, not just the arrests, but the number of cases of trafficking and drugs that we’re investigating," Grant said. "It’s not that there’s more cases of trafficking."
He added that the adjustment brings the drug trafficking numbers in line with the rest of the publicly available crime statistics, which are recorded whether or not they brought charges or arrests.
Overall, 2,071 crime reports were made from January to June of this year, compared to 2,365 for the first half of 2012 (down 12 per cent).
Police partly attribute the dropping crime trend to the long winter we had this year. The theory goes that even criminals hate the cold — if they’re not out and about, there’s less opportunity to commit crime.
But Grant said proactive policing may have something to do with it, too.
"I would like to think that our efforts as well, in working with the community, being more visible and stopping in more places … has potentially led to a decrease in some of the crimes," Grant said.
Police, for example, recently conducted "Project Fair Play" at the Manitoba Summer Fair and other city locations. They checked on people who had previous clashes with the law, and 14 people were either arrested or had arrest warrants issued for them.
The drop in the rate of reported crime doesn’t mean police are less busy, Grant cautioned. The monthly statistics record only reported Criminal Code violations and not all calls for service which have jumped.
From January through June this year,18,097 calls for service required some form of police action, compared to 15,509 for the same period last year.
Some of that can include work generated by police officers themselves, such as a stop at a school to make a presentation or extra patrols.
Non crime-related calls for service can also include calls for such things as Liquor Control Act offences or calls for help with mental health issues.
But police-initiated activity doesn’t fully explain the rise in calls for service, and Grant said he’ll continue to look into the trend.
In the meantime, he said he hopes the crime rate doesn’t rise with the summer heat.