Editorial: The negative effects of the city’s growth

The City of Brandon is a safe and comfortable place to live in and visit despite an increase in crimes related to property, weapons and drugs.

Brandon’s population growth presents a plethora of positive side effects for its residents, from greater economic opportunity to a growth in the number of public services and the municipality’s influence at the provincial level.

However, the recently released Brandon Police Service’s Annual Report outlines some of the adverse impacts of more people making the city their home. Crime statistics in some areas have grown substantially through the past five years while staying static in others, presenting a mix of comfort and concern to Brandon residents.

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On the negative side, the 2018 Annual Report showed an explosion in weapons, methamphetamine and property-related offences. In many cases, these three categories are related. As illicit drug abuse grows – there were just three meth-related charges in 2014 and 58 in 2018 – so does the illegal use of weapons from both users and suppliers. Meanwhile, the number of thefts and break-ins are growing in part due to the drug crisis. Users need the financial means necessary to get their next fix. If they can’t earn it, they’ll take it.

Meanwhile, personal crimes are also on the rise after a slight dip in 2017. Overall, the number of incidents in this category has grown 32.5 per cent over the past five years. Four fifths of these incidents involve assault and sexual assault.

Meanwhile, the number of calls for service is placing more pressure on each of the BPS’s 89 sworn officers. Seven years ago, members responded to about one call a day. Through 2017 and last year, this number rose 6.6 per cent to 450 calls per member per year.

One may find all of this somewhat overwhelming, especially when you consider the number of weapons-related offences jumped 534 per cent since 2015. However, it is important to put these numbers in perspective.

According MacLean’s magazine’s 2019 rankings of Canada’s most dangerous cities, Brandon is peaceful compared to other communities in the province.

As of July, 2018, the Winnipeg was known as the violent crime capital of Canada with 153.5 incidents per 100,000 residents. MacLean’s rankings showed the provincial capital is 10th in the country for violent crime. Thompson, Man., with a population of just 14,500, is first and Portage la Prairie is fifth.

Brandon, meanwhile, is ranked 50th, well below similar sized municipalities across the country. These include Prince Albert, Sask. (sixth), Belleville, Ont. (eighth), Timmons, Ont. (19th), Grand Prairie, Alta. (20th), Cornwall, Ont. (24th), Vernon, B.C. (28th), Fort McMurray, Alta. (38th) and Penticton, B.C. (42nd).

Are crime rates rising in the Brandon? Yes.

Could the situation be worse than it is? According to McLean’s magazine’s findings, yes.

While crime statistics appear to be showing a substantial increase in some areas, others remain comparatively non-existent. There were no homicides in 2018, five attempted murder incidents, five cases of arson, and five motor vehicle thefts; all crimes of substantial concern to public safety.

Although residents should continue to be vigilant in protecting themselves and their property, Brandon is a safe, peaceful community.

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