Crime rates skyrocketed in Nunavut’s capital last year
Crimes like spousal assaults, break-and-enters, robberies, and car-theft increased dramatically from 1999 to 2000.
VALERIE G. CONNELL
Incidents of crime in Iqaluit jumped at an alarming rate in the year 2000, with crime rates in some categories rising by as much as 100 per cent.
“Comparing one year to another is usually not representative of a significant trend. However, any sharp increases or decreases should be noted and monitored,” says Sgt. Mike O’Malley in a letter to Iqaluit’s Town Council.
In the RCMP’s monthly report to Iqaluit Town Council Jan. 23, Cpl. Bob Pilot presented comparison statistics for the years 1999 and 2000.
The numbers show a significant increase in crimes reported to police.
“There’s some increase in violent offences, spousal assaults and break-and- enters,” Pilot said. “There is a crime issue in Iqaluit.”
Instances of spousal abuse rose to 177 from 91 in 1999, break-and-enter offences were 139, up from 63, and there were more than double the number of cars stolen over the year, 176, up from 87.
There were seven robberies, up from four in the previous year, and alcohol-related offences climbed to 882 from 472 in 1999.
Pilot also noted there’s an alarming rise in the number of weapons being used in crimes over the past year.
According to Pilot, hard drug use such as heroin and cocaine is also increasing.
Pilot attributed the upswing in spousal abuse charges to the police’s zero-tolerance policy.
“If there’s any indication that there’s a possibility that there was spousal assault, charges were laid to protect the victim from any further violence,” he said.
People charged with spousal abuse are often repeat offenders, Pilot said.
But, with the Town’s new policing program, community constables and bylaw officers, Pilot said he thinks the recent crime upswing in Iqaluit can be curbed.
Community justice initiatives may also provide solutions to some of these problems.
“Courts do work in some instances, but maybe we should be going outside of the courts to resolve some issues,” Pilot said.
He said the police are using a more “pro-active approach,” including the use of a trained service dog in searches.
Although there’s a rise in crime, Pilot said the detachment has been short of members recently, but he said this will be rectified over the next few months. It should be at full-strength — about 24 members — by April or May. Once the policing staff is increased the RCMP will be able to improve service to Iqaluit.
The Iqaluit RCMP detachment has a new commander, Staff Sergeant M.R. Jefferies who, along with Sergeant Mike O’Malley, was unable to attend the town council meeting, Pilot said. Both were in Ottawa attending a training event.
Alcohol and substance abuse, domestic violence, and drug trafficking top the list of concerns outlined by Iqaluit Mayor John Matthews in a letter to Sgt. M. R. Jeffries. In this letter the mayor asks for a meeting to “develop strategies to reduce the number and severity of crimes.”
“After reviewing the letter it looks good to me, like we’re on the same track where we want to go with policing and assisting the community in areas of alcohol, substance abuse and domestic violence,” Jeffries said. “Those are very much things we have to deal with.”
Jeffries will meet with the Town when he returns from Ottawa.