Assault, property crime up in Iqaluit in 2003

Police say repeat offenders may be driving stats



Although crime rates are rising in Iqaluit, police don’t need extra resources, for now, says a senior RCMP officer.

Recently released statistics on criminal activity in Iqaluit, including assaults, break-ins, and theft, show police responded to a sizeable increase in calls in 2003, compared to 2002.

Officers in Iqaluit investigated 753 more incidents, and looked into a total of 5,706 complaints last year, up from 4,953 the year before.

Sgt. Tom Kasdorf, who handles crime stats for the RCMP’s Iqaluit detachment, said in a recent interview that the rise in police activity – a total 15 per cent increase – didn’t mean more resources were required, yet.

“Obviously if the calls go up, there is more work for us,” Kasdorf said in an interview. “Can we do it with the resources we have? Obviously, we’ve done it. Would we like to have more resources? Well, sure we would, but is it necessary? Probably not at this time.”

Assaults represented the worst jump in crime in Iqaluit last year, with more than a 30-per-cent increase. Reports show the RCMP handled 727 assault cases in Iqaluit last year, up from 552 the year before.

Police investigated a similar increase in complaints about residents disturbing the peace, which increased 28 per cent, to 1,189 cases from 922.

At first glance, the statistics suggest Iqaluit might have overcome its reputation as a rowdy, drunken town, as police dealt with almost 50 per cent less cases related to the Liquor Act.

Moreover, the number of recorded incidents of people being drunk in public plummeted 75 per cent. Police reported 88 drunks in public last year, a handful compared to 385 drunks two years ago.

But, in fact, police handled a significant increase in booze-fueled crime.

Under liquor-related occurences, police reported 352 more crimes than the previous year – a 17.5-per-cent increase, climbing to 2,357 from 2,005.

In other words, more than 40 per cent of the time, Iqaluit’s police were dealing with drunken criminals or a crime related to alcohol.

Kasdorf cautioned that the various jumps in crime statistics didn’t necessarily mean an increase in crime, or criminals. He said added road-side check stops may have lead to more arrests, and in some cases, the numbers represent the same person breaking the law several times.

Kasdorf said the statistics likely mean police are dealing with the same offenders more often, rather than what he calls an overall increase in crime.

However, police specifically urged the public to help reduce Iqaluit’s increase in property-related crime, such as theft and break-and-enter. Theft jumped to 765 cases last year, a 25-per-cent increase from 611; break and enter cases rose to 272 from 212.

To avoid becoming victims of these crimes, Kasdorf said residents must be more vigilant in locking their doors, and should mark their possessions to show they own them.

The statistics show police were more active with crime-prevention programs in the community last year. In 2003, RCMP ramped up their community and public relations activities, such anti-drug programs, like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) and visits to schools. Police recorded 161 such events, up from 132 the year before.

Kasdorf noted that RCMP are trying to stem the rising tide of crime through an increase use of restorative justice, which involves reaching an agreement between a victim and offender without taking the case to court. Police are also increasingly offering professional counselling to criminals.

In some areas, Iqaluit experienced an official fall in crime:

* Sexual assaults calls declined slightly to 64 in 2003, from 67 in 2002.
* Roads may have become safer. Motor vehicle accidents dropped to 98 from 123.
* Drug-related cases were down to 55 per year, compared to 66 the year before.

One definite result from the overall rising numbers – police held almost 2,000 people in prison last year, up from 1,642 the year before.

Like other years, Kasdorf said RCMP would use the numbers to decide where they should focus their resources.

“We look at the numbers and they give us some idea of where to go,” Kasdorf said, “And we definitely will use them as a template to see… where we can improve, or what issues we should be concentrating on.”

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