Vancouver’s crime rate fell by more than 7 per cent last year, but sexual assault, fraud and impaired driving were on the rise according to the Vancouver Police Department’s 2009 annual report.
The VPD recorded 95 more sexual offences in 2009, an increase of nearly 18 per cent over 2008.
“While I would like to report to you that every category of crime is falling, there always seems to be some stubborn exceptions,” said Vancouver police chief Jim Chu at a press conference Monday.
“As you can see in our annual report from last year, we’ve seen a spike in sexual offences. That increase of about 21 per cent seems to be holding the first half of this year.”
Rates of fraud also rose by 9.1 per cent and impaired driving was up by 1.7 per cent.
The spikes were the exception, however, with most crimes seeing significant decreases.
“The total number of crimes dropped seven and a half per cent. I am also happy to report that the downward trend has continued in the first half of this year,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said at the press conference.
Most categories of crime were down in 2009 including a 19.8 per cent drop in the numbers of attempted murders, a 7.4 per cent drop in homicides and a 24. 2 per cent drop in arson.
“We want to see these trends continue. We want the VPD to achieve the goal of making Vancouver the safest major city in Canada,” said Mr. Robertson.
Crime rates for 2010 to date mirror those in 2009 according to a further set of police statistics released on Monday.
In the first six months of 2010, there has been a 21.2 per cent spike in sexual assaults rising from 250 to 303 during the same period in 2009. Of those assaults, seven have been aggravated and seven have involved a weapon. Another four incidents included luring a child over the Internet.
Incidents of fraud, assault, theft under $5,000 and mischief under $5,000 also rose slightly.
Most categories of crime dropped in the first six months of 2010. Break and entries and thefts from a motor vehicle were down. There has only been six homicides compared to the 13 recorded this time last year. Similarly, attempted murders fell by 75 per cent from 12 in the first six months of 2009 to 3 in 2010.
“What a difference a year and a bit makes because last year, all of you know that the region went crazy with the gang violence,” said Chief Chu, adding that police projects such as Project Rebellion and Project Torrent helped put dozens of gangsters behind bars last year.
Chief Chu said he thinks the 2010 crime rates would be even lower if it weren’t for the Olympics.
Crime rates are reported on a population basis, which doesn’t take into account the thousands of spectators that arrived in the city for the Games, he said.
“We did see more crime in that period of time, especially in the nature of violent crime...Without the Olympics, I think we would have seen a higher drop in those crime categories,” he said.
Chief Chu acknowledged that there is always unreported crime, however, he said that a citizen survey done by a private company revealed that the rate of non-reporting has remained steady, leading the police to believe the crime rate is really dropping.
With the 7 per cent drop in crime came a 7 per cent increase in the VPD’s operating budget to $194, 735,000.
“The goal of the VPD to make Vancouver the safest city in Canada is a laudable goal–a goal I think Vancouverites support and until we get there we have to keep making the investments to drive these crimes down,” Mayor Robertson said.
While the mayor affirmed future funding support for the police force, Chief Chu said he would not be asking for any staffing increases in 2011.