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Newly released statistics point to a notable drop in police-recorded crime during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Statistics Canada says 17 police services across Canada reported that selected criminal incidents were down by 17 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier.

The lone exception was uttering threats by a family member, with police reporting four per cent more incidents during the same period last year.

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In addition, the number of calls for service rose eight per cent, particularly wellness checks, mental health calls and calls to attend domestic disturbances.

The statistics agency says when the physical distancing measures introduced in mid-March to control the pandemic started easing in May, the number of crimes and calls for service began to rise.

The 17 police services providing data are some of the largest nationally and serve close to 60 per cent of the population of Canada.

During the early months of the pandemic, the police services reported a 20 per cent decrease in sexual assaults compared with the same period a year earlier, Statistics Canada says. The number of reported assaults also declined.

The agency notes victimization surveys have shown that rates of reporting to the police are lower for sexual assaults and spousal violence than for other types of crimes.

For those experiencing violence, especially within the home, previous releases have shown that accessing services during the pandemic may be more difficult because of restricted contact with sources of support, the agency added.

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