Forest city crime down 9 per cent

Number of criminal charges is down, but common assaults are up

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A proactive approach to fighting crime is being cited as the main reason incidents of crime saw a drop in 2007, according to recently released statistics.

After seeing a record year of criminal charges laid in 2006, crime rates in London dropped last year by a total of nine per cent: 33,347 to 30,674.

Constable Amy Phillipo, media representative for the London Police Service, attributed the trend to a proactive approach being taken by the department.

“[Police] are targeting the people we know who cause most of the problems in the city,” Phillipo said. “We’re just basically doing things to prevent crime instead of reacting to it.”

Increased bail checks on repeat offenders and circumventing parole violations for potential risks were some of the tactics employed, Phillipo said. This process was made easier since more officers are on the street.

A large drop was seen in the number of break and enters with 16 per cent fewer break-in charges, thanks largely to a 45 per cent drop in business break and enters. Residential break and enters only saw a slight drop of four per cent.

But the decrease in break and enters was of little comfort to one Western student, who was the victim of one last year.

“I think it’s different if you’ve already been robbed,” Sarah Coenye, a third-year history student, said. “Maybe someone who hasn’t had their house broken into will feel safer hearing the statistics are down, but it doesn’t make a difference to me.”

Although the statistics showed a downward trend in certain crimes, one crime in particular has seen an alarming rise: for the fifth straight year there has been an increase in common assaults.

“We’re living in a more violent society I guess,” Phillipo said, adding crimes of passion, such as assaults, can be difficult for police to prevent as they often result from domestic disturbances.

Additionally, weapons offence charges are up for the fifth year; in 2007 there was a 29 per cent rise in weapon offence charges, which is something Phillipo attributes to the success of police endeavours like Project Disarm.

At Western, Elgin Austen, director of the of Campus Community Police Service, had statistics compiled for last year: incidents requiring investigation were down three per cent from 7,410 to 7,227.

Austen was particularly happy about the drop in break and enters, which fell 43 per cent from 98 to 56.

“A year ago, we had twice as many break and enters,” Austen said. “Because of that we increased the number of security guards patrolling inside buildings and both the streets and parking lots.

“You compare [last year’s crime statistics] to a population of 40,000 over 365 days of the year ... that’s an exceptionally safe environment,” Austen added.

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