Crime severity on the rise in Waterloo region

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The Waterloo Regional Police Service has noted an overall increase in crime in the Waterloo region over the past couple of years.

Through diligent observation and analysis of crime trends, the WRPS has been able to identify which crimes are on the rise and determine where to focus their actions.

“Our frontline officers and investigators continue to work diligently to combat all violent and non-violent criminal activity,” said Constable Ashley Dietrich of the WRPS in an email statement. “This involves the analysis of trends and linkages to ensure we have focused and strategic efforts to identify suspects and ensuring they are held accountable.”

Statistics Canada’s Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) most recent reports of crime severity in the area note a 6.3 per cent increase in the Crime Severity Index, a system used to measure the severity of police-reported crime and track changes in crime severity.

The CCJS reported an 8.5 per cent increase in the violence crime severity index and a 5.4 per cent increase in the non-violent crime severity increase for Waterloo Region from 2017 to 2018. Homicides, robberies, aggravated and sexual assaults all fall under the umbrella of “violent crime” while thefts, fraud, motor vehicle thefts, thefts from motor vehicles and break and enters would be considered “non-violent crime.”

Statistics Canada’s Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) most recent reports of crime severity in the area note a 6.3 per cent increase in the Crime Severity Index, a system used to measure the severity of police-reported crime and track changes in crime severity.

Statistics Canada’s most recent data comparing violent crime rates for Waterloo Region and Canada as a whole show that Waterloo Region has higher than average rates of sexual assault and breaking and entering, but lower than average rates of homicide, robbery and motor vehicle theft.

While there has been an increase in violent crimes overall, violent offences involving firearms and shooting related offences have decreased in 2019.

Despite lower than average rates, WRPS noted an increase in robberies across the region.

“Currently we are experiencing an increase in robberies throughout the Region of Waterloo. This includes person-on-person robberies and robberies linked to online buy and sell sites. A number of these victims tend to be under the age of 18. We are reminding residents to be alert and take precautions,” said Dietrich.

With the beginning of a new school year, people are encouraged to be especially diligent with keeping their doors locked, especially those living in student housing complexes.

“Whenever a new school year commences we also tend to see an increase in break and enters and thefts related incidents at student housing complexes. Some criminals tend to view this as a crime of opportunity. They take advantage of students who do not secure their apartments or who leave items behind,” said Dietrich.

The WRPS noted an increase in criminal activity and violence in Southern Ontario related to drug trafficking, gang activity and the use of illegal firearms , which are contributing factors to the escalating crime rates in Waterloo Region.

“Because individuals involved in criminal activity do not necessarily respect geographical boundaries, we are seeing an increase in violent and non-violent crime in Waterloo Region,” Dietrich said. “Much of our data show that many criminals involved in illegal drug trafficking and violent crime aren’t from our community. Often, our investigations find the tentacles of crime go back to the Greater Toronto Area.”

The WRPS as well as other police services across Ontario are working to combat these complex issues.

“The Waterloo Regional Police Service continues to work in close coordination with other police services across Ontario to focus and collaborate our strategies related to drug trafficking, weapons, human trafficking and gang/organized crime to help protect our community.”

There are several steps students can take to protect themselves, including being aware of their surroundings, traveling in groups, staying in well-lit areas, meeting in public spaces with cameras present, keeping valuable devices hidden/locked away, keeping personal information secure, locking their doors and drinking responsibly.

The opioid crisis is another contributing factor to rising crime rates in the area, impacting road safety and leading to an increased number of fatal overdoses, with 47 this year to date.

Many students in Waterloo Region may be new to the area and unfamiliar with their surroundings. Services such as Project Safe Semester are put in place to promote the safety of the students.

“The campaign is done in collaboration with Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo campus police, Conestoga College, City of Waterloo By-law and the Waterloo Fire Department to ensure the safety and security of all community members,” said Dietrich.

There are several steps students can take to protect themselves, including being aware of their surroundings, traveling in groups, staying in well-lit areas, meeting in public spaces with cameras present, keeping valuable devices hidden/locked away, keeping personal information secure, locking their doors and drinking responsibly.

Students are encouraged to report any suspicious activity or crime they witness, by contacting the WRPS or reporting anonymously through Crime Stoppers.

“When it comes to crime, the community plays a big role. If students are noticing suspicious activity or individuals on their campus or near their apartment, they are encouraged to call police immediately. The same goes for all residents, visitors and people who work in Waterloo Region,” Said Dietrich.

“Overall, the Region of Waterloo is a safe community and the Waterloo Regional Police Service is committed to strengthening public safety and quality of life by working in partnership with the community in crime prevention and law enforcement.”

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