Chatham-Kent police say, overall, there were fewer major crimes reported in 2019. However, the number of serious crimes like attempted murder, sexual assault, criminal harassment, and robbery was up compared to 2018.
A comprehensive report presented at the police services board on Tuesday showed the overall number of reported crimes dropped by 16 per cent in 2019 compared to the previous year from 5,663 to 4,781. Attempted murders went from one to four, sexual assaults went up from 81 to 96, criminal harassment increased from 86 to 120, and robberies jumped from 23 to 30. Break and enters at homes and businesses dropped from 650 to 515 and 266 to 224 respectively.
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“Property crimes; both residential and business, saw reductions of 21% and 16% respectively. These reductions are largely attributed to the pro-active measures implemented by community patrol as well as the street crimes unit,” said report author Staff Sergeant Gabe Tetrault. “A concerted effort to monitor serial offenders both locally and in neighbouring jurisdictions through patrol initiatives, as well as collaborative information sharing with neighbouring police agencies along with public messaging through the services information officer, has led to positive results in a marked reduction.”
Tetrault added drug-related offences will continue to be targeted to reduce drug and property crimes because there is a direct connection between property crimes and the sale and consumption of illicit narcotics. The number of disturbance calls also rose significantly.
“This increase is largely due to calls for service surrounding individuals acting in a disorderly manner due to the ingestion of drugs and/or hallucinogens,” said Tetrault. “In many cases, these individuals have to be arrested for their own safety in order to protect them from placing themselves in a potentially harmful situation (ie. Walking into traffic).”
The number of impaired driving charges and seven-day suspensions also increased in 2019. Police board members were told impaired driving charges were up 51 per cent from 61 to 92.
“These increases of 51% and 67% respectively can be attributed to concerted efforts by community patrol officers along with the Traffic Management section as well as public messaging by the services media officer,” the report stated.
Chatham-Kent police also reported 12 new sex offenders because they were either released from prison or moved to the area for a total of 264 males and two females on the sex offender registry. Police said an arrest warrant is out for one offender and another was arrested last year for not complying with registration rules. Two others are under investigation. Child abuse arrests and charges remained relatively the same from 2018 to 2019.
The drugs and street crimes unit was also busy in 2019 keeping an eye on drug dealers and biker gangs and seizing vehicles and houses used to commit crimes. Officers busted 69 people for major drug and property crimes and laid 182 charges. They took nearly $3.4 million worth of drugs off the street last year (mainly Fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine) and recovered more than $180,000 in property. Officers also seized 18 illegal guns and more than $80,000 in drug money.
The biker enforcement unit is also keeping track of three outlaw motorcycle gangs in Chatham-Kent. The Bacchus Motorcycle Club, formerly the Red Devils, has nine members, The Horsemen, which is affiliated with the Hell’s Angels, continues to operate in Ridgetown with nine members, and members of The SHOP, which police say is a new riding club, wear a support Hell’s Angels patch on their vest.
Mayor Darrin Canniff thanked police for making Chatham-Kent one of the safest communities in Ontario.