With stay-at-home directives in place for much of 2020, the Alberta RCMP has reported a large decrease in property crimes for the year.
According to an Alberta RCMP press release, From January through December 2020, there was a 17 per cent decrease in break-and-enters reported in Alberta RCMP jurisdictions compared to 2019. Additionally, there was a 19 per cent decrease in theft of motor vehicles.
Theft under $5,000 also declined, dropping by 22 per cent, with 7,852 fewer cases reported than the previous year. Overall, the release stated, there were 14,230 fewer property crime offences and 21,285 fewer total criminal code offences in 2020.
“If you had no business being anywhere, you kind of stood out,” said Fraser Logan, media relations officer with Alberta RCMP. “There was a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggested if you could not hide in a crowd, that stuck out more and could be considered suspicious.”
Logan said while it will take longer to understand how crime trends have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many steps being taken by RCMP to reduce crime of all types. He added an initiative called Project Lockup has been in place since 2019 and is having a positive impact on rural property crime throughout Alberta.
“We help out individual properties that have been repeat victims of property crimes,” he said.
From March 2019 to April 2020 the number of property crimes fell by 55 per cent from properties that previously experienced the highest rates of repeat crime.
“It’s really surprising how much stats will increase just from one property,” Logan said. “It’s also really surprising to see when we bring someone to justice how much stats go down. One individual can really affect the surrounding area. The rough number that I have heard is five per cent of individuals are causing 90 per cent of property crimes in Alberta.”
Logan said that figure isn’t the same for all regions, but there does seem to be some consistency.
“Correlation is not causation, but we still look at things like this,” he said. “It is very interesting to see. Members do notice it, definitely.”
Property crime, according to Logan, is preventable. He said prevention starts with proactive thinking by the individual or property owner.
“Very simple things like cleaning up the yard, making sure doors are locked and not forgetting your keys in the car are initiatives that can reduce property crime,” he said.
Logan said the RCMP is still monitoring crime trends during the pandemic, as the main difference between 2020 and years previous is that people were spending more time at home.
“If you are working from home all day, there is no chance people will want to enter your home or your property looking for things to steal,” he said.