Offering a mixed bag of a report, Greater Sudbury Police Service reported this week that overall criminal offences were down 3.4 per cent last year, but violent crime jumped by 12.6 per cent. Sexual assaults, however, jumped by more than 25 per cent.
Chief Paul Pedersen walked the police board through these latest statistics during Wednesday’s meeting, which highlighted changes between 2020 and 2021 crime statistic totals.
Total calls for service were down slightly year over year, from 58,815 to 57,874, of which approximately 17 per cent were criminal in nature.
The 9,675 criminal offences reported last year marks Greater Sudbury’s lowest figure since 9,410 cases were reported in 2017.
Of last year’s criminal offences, 2,721 were considered violent, which was a 12.6 per cent increase compared to 2020. Notable within last year’s violent offences statistics are:
- Sexual assaults were up 25.1 per cent
- Other sexual offences were up by 7.7 per cent
- Robberies increased by 15.9 per cent
- Criminal harassment increased by 37.6 per cent
There’s no cut and dried explanation for these numbers, Pedersen told the board, offering a number of possible explanations for the the spike in sexual assaults and offences.
Part of it has to do with a coding change police made in reaction to public criticism of police across the country in recent years, he said. It was revealed police had classified one in five sexual assault cases as “unfounded.” While unsubstantiated refers to failure to prove a sexual assault has occurred, the term unfounded implies the report is a lie.
“We’re no longer putting that code classification in there, and they’re staying in as reported sexual assaults,” Pedersen said.
“Moreover, awareness campaigns, #MeToo movements, online reporting are seeing more crimes being reported to us,” Pedersen said, later adding this is at least partly because more of it is also taking place.
There were 244 sexual assaults reported in 2021, of which 106 are classified as “cleared,” which refers to cases where charges were laid. This clearance rate of 43.3 per cent is on par with the city’s overall clearance rate for offences, which was 41.3 per cent last year.
The discrepancy between reported and cleared cases is often due to the approach the victim chooses to take things, according to emailed correspondence with Criminal Investigations Division sexual assault co-ordinator D/Cst. Stephanie Duchene and Project Champion co-ordinator Julia Kinna, who noted they take a “victim-centered approach.”
“The survivor has a choice in the investigation on how the investigation is concluded,” they wrote in relation to sexual assaults in specific. In some cases, such as when the victim is a minor and the offender is an adult and person of authority, charges are laid automatically.
“Further, there are still cases that may remain open for some time as sexual assault investigations are complex and may have various aspects that require a lengthy investigation, such as historical sexual assaults. The cases that remain open and still under investigation will also reflect in the not cleared category.”
They added that Greater Sudbury Police Service Service want to establish that survivors have options when they report their sexual assaults to police.
“We are seeing an increase in individuals who report to police and choose not to pursue charges. We respect survivors’ wishes and make it clear that these reports will be on file with us in the event they do wish to pursue a full investigation with charges.”
There were 95 robberies reported last year, of which 59 were cleared, and 1,402 assaults, of which 1,019 were cleared.
Criminal harassment has been another unique upward trend in recent months, Pedersen said, of which 296 were cleared of the 399 reported – a 37.6 per cent jump in total cases from 2020.
“COVID has brought the conflict between people out a lot,” he said. “People have been isolated, and it certainly feels to us that there’s more aggression out there that we experienced during the pandemic that wasn’t necessarily there before.”
Other notable crime statistics from 2021 include:
- Property offences were down 8.2 per cent
- Frauds were down 19.7 per cent
- Break and enters to residences were down 18 per cent, possibly due to more people working from home
- Mischief was up by 15.6 per cent, possibly due to an increase in vehicle windows being smashed during thefts
As reported recently in response to what was described as a “shocking” 34 impaired driving cases investigated in May, impaired driving offences increased dramatically last year to 329 cases. This is a 67 per cent increase from 2020 and 57 per cent greater than the 10-year average of 210.
Baked into this figure were 171 alcohol-impaired driving offences and 158 drug-impaired driving offences. While the alcohol-related cases represent a 3.6 per cent increase from 2020, drug-impaired cases increased by 379 per cent from the previous year.
“It just has been disappointing to see that impaired driving continues in our community and continues to grow,” Pedersen said.
While various substances can come into play, the majority of those who drive while impaired by drugs are under the influence of opioids.
In Pedersen’s presentation, he also noted a decrease in COVID-related lockdowns meant people were travelling more and there was an increased use of mandatory roadside screening and drug recognition expert training.
There are certain steps the average citizen can take to help prevent themselves from becoming the victim of a crime, Pederson said while capping off his presentation.
“The days where we used to be able to leave doors unlocked, where we weren't too worried about whether or not we had the grass cut while we were away, the days where we could leave our car doors unlocked or even cars running while we go in and pick up pizza are gone,” he said.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.