Though his reaction may have fallen short of a sigh of relief, it’s fair to say Guelph’s police chief saw Statistics Canada’s latest crime stats report as good news.
One of Chief Bryan Larkin’s greatest concerns upon taking on the role of chief was “not to lose the streak of being the safest community in Canada,” he said.
Though the report, released this week, is not all positive for Guelph, the good news is the city had the lowest crime severity rate in Canada in 2011 for the fifth year in a row.
The not-so-good news: “One of the red flags is the increase in violent crime,” said Larkin.
The report, which features statistics for police-reported crime in 2011, showed an eight per cent jump in violent crime for Guelph.
A homicide in 2011 – something the city hasn’t had in several years – was partly to blame for the jump in violent crime numbers, said Larkin.
But he emphasized the positive: “we still have the third lowest violent crime severity index for a city of our size,” he said.
“We’re a very safe community,” he said, noting the low crime rate is a result of a combination of things, including availability of recreation, education and social programs.
Larkin, who took on the role of chief in April, hopes to keep the low-crime-rate streak going.
“Our focus has been to look at what are the root causes of crime,” he said. “A lot of crime is often related to some sort of social addiction.”
Partnerships with local social service organizations are an important part of keeping crime low, he said. “We can’t arrest our way out.”
In addition to social programming, the Guelph Police will also focus resources on organized crime, including drug trafficking, because it is often linked to other forms of crime such as theft, said Larkin.
News that the province has committed permanent funding to the Provincial Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (PAVIS) will help.
“It’s great news for our community,” said Larkin.
The program provided 2011 funding for an officer dedicated to the service’s drugs and intelligence branch. The continued funding for PAVIS was announced following the recent shooting deaths in Scarborough.
The program is valuable not just because of funding, but also because it supports co-ordination between police services, said Larkin.
“Crime and those that commit it, they don’t respect geographical boundaries,” said Larkin.