A skyrocketing number of weapons related offences is the stand-out statistic in the Brandon Police Service’s recently released 2018 Annual Report.
The number of weapons offences has exploded by 534 per cent since 2015, from about 20 four years ago to more than 80 last year. The Brandon Police Service (BPS) responded to 41 calls that fall within this category, a jump of 115 per cent.
Running alongside these statistics is another of concern to Brandonites. Charges placed against individuals related to methamphetamine issues in the city were just three in 2014. That number grew to 58 in 2018. The greatest leap in this statistic occurred between 2016, when a dozen charges were laid, and 2017, which had 53.
“For the weapons offences and the like, we have seen a significant change in the landscape when it comes to the substance use issues that this community is facing, a lot of it having to do with methamphetamines,” said BPS Chief Wayne Balcaen. “A lot of the long-term users of meth get paranoid and carry weapons for self-protection or to perpetuate violence to commit robbery and I think the two of them often go hand and hand.”
Because the meth and weapons issues, for the most part, can be connected, Chief Balcaen said the issue is a substantial concern to the police service and the community. It’s now more than just a drug issue.
“It’s not only impacting police services, but so many health services and other services provided within our district, so I’m sure this crosses all sorts of borders,” he said, noting that the abuse of any substance must be taken into consideration. Alcohol abuse runs parallel to methamphetamines as it pertains to their relation to other criminal activities in the city.
Whether weapons related charges will continue its upward trend is “a million dollar question,” said Chief Balcaen.
“I’m hoping that this is a statistical anomaly, but realistically, this is one area we are keeping a very close eye on to see what sort of trend this is going to bring us in 2020 and beyond,” he said.
Overall, BPS members responded to 40,063 calls through 2018. This also represents an increase from previous years. There were roughly 6500 fewer calls for service placed in 2014 and the number grew 2.4 per cent from 2017.
This is a substantial increase for the BPS on a call per officer basis. Chief Balcaen said there were 360 calls per member in 2012. That number grew to 450 last year.
“And that’s not only calls for service, but for members, dispatchers and civilian staff,” he said. “It has an impact across the community. Brandon is growing and with that comes growth in all the different areas (of life in the city).”
The BPS reported a total of 6656 criminal code violations and 104 federal statute offences last year. This breaks down to 989 personal crimes, 3634 property crimes – another issue of particular concern to the BPS – 142 traffic violations, 114 drug-related charges, and 1764 charges related to public mischief, breach of peace, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, offensive weapons and moral offenses such as pornography.
In the realm of property crime, which has also seen a general increase since 2014, most of the cases involved theft under $5000 (1708). Other notable statistics within this category include 856 mischief charges, 448 fraud charges, 365 cases of break and enter and 127 thefts of property worth more than $5000.
The BPS Annual Report showed most charges pertaining to personal crimes involved assault (660). There were also 135 sexual assaults, 48 robberies, five attempted murder charges and no homicides.