By Trevor Busch
Alarming drug enforcement trends throughout the community in 2018 have been highlighted in the Taber Police Service’s annual report card on crime statistics.
Prepared by Sr. Cst. Dave Gyepesi and administrative assistant Arlene Wong and presented to the Taber Municipal Police Commission at their April 17 meeting, the 2018 crime report is the 12th year of the annual crime analysis.
“Methamphetamine usage has surfaced amongst Taber’s illicit drug users. Until late 2017, meth usage in Taber had been relatively non-existent,” reads a statement in the Gyepesi-Wong report. “This increasing meth use in Taber can be explained as this same trend has been observed across the province. Meth has recently become the drug of choice among illicit drug users within those communities.”
The most troubling numbers in the report presented themselves under drug enforcement. In 2018, Taber saw 11 incidents of methamphetamine possession, representing a 1,000 per cent increase over 2017, which saw only one incident.
“As forecasted in 2017, the trend in southern Alberta has come to the town of Taber,” states the report. “Factors such as the implementation of the supervised consumption site in Lethbridge in February 2018, and the trend of traveling criminality has been felt in our community. As shown by recent intelligence, many of the transient drug users that are now living or frequenting our community, or have ties to our community, have connections to Lethbridge and Calgary.”
Other concerning statistics included 10 cases of cocaine possession (900 per cent increase), five incidents of cocaine trafficking (67 per cent increase), one case of methamphetamine trafficking (100 per cent increase), one incident of opioid possession (100 per cent increase), no incidents of marijuana production but two cases of possession over 30 grams (100 per cent increase), 24 incidents of marijuana possession under 30 grams (71 per cent increase), three cases of marijuana trafficking under three kilograms (200 per cent increase), and eight charges under the category of ‘other’ (60 per cent increase). In total, drug offences saw an overall increase of 160 per cent in 2018.
“As drug use escalates, the need for social supports will increase. From addictions, mental health and victim services, all will see increases in service requests,” reads a warning in the report. “From a policing perspective, it is imperative to continue enforcement and investigations regarding these individuals. The continuation of intelligence gathering, source cultivation and aggressive police work will be an important part of the entire body of work that will be required to help combat this issue.”
For property offences in 2018 there were 32 break and enters, representing a 35 per cent decrease over 2017 which saw 49 incidents. The year also saw 24 thefts of motor vehicles (four per cent increase), nine thefts over $5,000 (13 per cent increase), 185 thefts under $5,000 (17 per cent decrease), 22 possessions of stolen property (33 per cent decrease), and 37 frauds (24 per cent decrease). In total, property offences saw an overall decrease by a factor of 20 per cent in 2018.
“We’re seeing a lot of transient behaviour, a lot of people going into backyards — I often tell people in the community, and outside the community, you have to lock and bolt down everything nowadays, that’s just the way it is,” said Gyepesi.
Through a review of vehicle theft statistics involving cases that actually had a vehicle confirmed to be stolen, the numbers point to the fact that Taberites have often been cavalier in their approach to securing property — and criminals have been taking advantage.
“Of these 15 confirmed vehicle thefts, 66 per cent involved thefts where the keys were left in the vehicle prior to the theft occurring,” confirmed the Gyepesi-Wong report. “Thefts from motor vehicles accounted for 21 per cent of all reports of thefts under $5,000. Of the 38 reports of thefts from motor vehicles, 22 involved items being stolen from the interior of unattended vehicles. Of that 22, 18 were determined to have been unlocked… these statistics confirm that removing keys from vehicles and ensuring that doors are locked when vehicles are left unattended would likely decrease the number of reportable thefts in these categories.”
Vehicle-related crimes appear to still be a chronic problem for the community in 2019, as an analysis of this week’s crime report (April 15-21, Page A7) indicates that more than half of the 23 reported incidents from the TPS were vehicle related.
In offences against persons in 2018 there were three incidents of robbery, representing a 300 per cent increase over 2017 which saw no recorded incidents. The year also saw 10 incidents of sexual assault (23 per cent decrease), 70 assaults (one per cent decrease), 20 assaults with a weapon or causing bodily harm (122 per cent increase), three aggravated assaults (40 per cent decrease), and eight assaults on police (14 per cent increase). In total, offences against persons saw a rise of four per cent.
“A trend is noted with the assault on police category with the numbers rising for a fifth consecutive year,” states the report. “Comparatively in 2014, two assault on police incidences were reported, whereas in 2018, eight were reported. In a five year period there has been an increase of 75 per cent. The 2018 numbers display the highest number of reported assaults on police since the inception of these statistics.”
For other criminal code in 2018 there were 25 incidents of criminal harassment, representing a 150 per cent increase over 2017 which saw 10 incidents. The year also saw 133 cases of property damage (three per cent increase), 167 cases of disturbing the peace (36 per cent increase), 65 cases of uttering threats (six per cent decrease), 165 incidents of bail violations/breaches of probation (20 per cent increase), and 51 incidents of impaired operation of a motor vehicle (six per cent increase). In total, other criminal code saw an overall increase of 17 per cent in 2018.
“The breach of probation/bail, we’re finding there’s a lot of repeat offenders with this,” said Gyepesi. “So we do an investigation with stolen property and perhaps some drugs, and we get the person to court and they get a probation sentence. We’ll often find that that person is going to re-offend, they’re breaching their probation, they’re not following up with their conditions.”
Under provincial acts in 2018 there were 111 incidents under the Mental Health Act, representing a 52 per cent increase over 2017, which saw 73 incidents. The year also saw 15 Child Welfare Act cases (seven per cent increase), 134 incidents under the Liquor Act (10 per cent increase), 2007 other provincial stats (seven per cent decrease), 148 collisions (three per cent increase), and 501 Municipal Bylaw violations (six per cent decrease). In total, provincial acts saw an overall decrease of four per cent in 2018.
“This is a concerning area throughout the policing world… and it has taken a community approach to react properly to these types of incidences,” concludes the report, referencing incidents under Mental Health Act. “A positive working relationship has been developed with the local hospital to best suit the needs of the person(s).”