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Crime in the times of COVID - Halton Region sees Significant Changes in Most Crimes

Violent crime, break and enter, collisions down significantly according to Halton Police Annual Report 2020


The COVID-19 emergency has changed social interactions in many ways. It's also led to a nation-wide reduction in crime rates and the frequency of certain types of criminal behaviour. Halton Regional Police Service's just-released ‘Annual Report 2020’ throws light on some of those behaviours.


Property crimes fell sharply across the Region during 2020, as more people were staying home or working from home during the emergency. Break and enters were down 35% across Halton, while fraud and weapons offences showed a similar reduction of 30%.


Reported vehicle collisions were down almost 40%, as might be expected with motorists doing less travelling. However, people are apparently drinking more alcohol and still operating vehicles. Almost as many impaired charges were laid in 2020 as the previous year (437 as compared to 448 in 2019). On the other hand, auto thefts in Halton remained robust despite the state of emergency, down slightly at 3.4% (547 stolen vehicles as compared to 566 in 2019).


Violent crime dropped dramatically throughout Halton Region in 2020, especially in two classifications, “sexual assault” and “robbery”, which were down 20.6% and 26.1% respectively. However, “abductions” and “other sexual offences” were up significantly, 71.4% and 21.3%, over 2019 figures.


Halton Police Service collects data by region and by district. Halton Hills' stats are batched together with Milton in District One. Of the three Halton districts, District One, including Acton, showed the biggest reduction in all crime categories including violent crime, property crime and other crime, altogether 24.9% lower when compared to 2019.


In a report issued January 27, 2021, Statistics Canada used data provided by 19 police services (among the largest in Canada, including Halton Police), to look at “Selected police-reported crime and calls for service during the COVID-19 pandemic, March to October 2020.” Stats Canada found similar downward trends in crime across the country that seem to coincide with the Halton Report. According to StatsCan: “One exception was non-residential breaking and entering, which increased in March (+26%) and April (+13%) compared with the same months a year earlier.”


Nation-wide, selected criminal incidents were down by almost one-fifth (18%) in the first eight months of the pandemic, compared with the same period a year earlier. Sexual assaults decreased by 20%, and residential break and enters decreased by 27% during the pandemic. “In contrast, the number of calls for service, particularly wellness checks, mental health calls and calls to attend domestic disturbances, rose 8%,” according to the report.


Stats Canada tracked the selected data on a monthly basis, showing the ebb and flow of criminal activity during the first eight months of the pandemic. Police services reported a decline in almost all crime categories during the initial emergency in March and April 2020, when all non-essential businesses were closed, but began to increase as businesses began to open during the summer. Criminal incidents were up 12% from May to June, and 11% in July, but then began to decrease at the end of summer.


Police Chief Stephen Tanner provided the regional perspective in Halton Police Service's 2020 Annual Report: “While fewer criminal offences were reported in 2020, it is both noteworthy and concerning that our officers responded to nearly 4,000 people in crisis, more than 240 suspected overdoses, and more than 3,700 intimate partner violence incidents; this is in large part because the pandemic has bred social isolation, economic upheaval and significant stress.”


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the fabric of Canadian society, causing unprecedented strains to the economy, health care system and social interactions. Certainly, the pandemic has been a boon to insurance companies as a result of a significant reduction in auto collisions and property crime. One would think insurance companies should be offering a rebate on their premiums to homeowners and motorists--but don't hold your breath.

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