Calgary sees 20% spike in sex offences in 2016: police report

A new report being presented to city council on Wednesday shows sexual offences in Calgary jumped by 20 per cent last year.

The annual update on the Calgary Police Service, presented by the Calgary Police Commission, provides an overview of police activities and includes a look at Calgary’s crime statistics.

According to the report, 539 sex offences were reported to Calgary police in 2016, compared to 446 in 2015.

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“A few factors have likely resulted in a reporting increase of sex assault, which is traditionally one of the most under-reported crimes,” the report states. “These include significant efforts to elicit reporting including the province-wide ‘I Believe You Campaign’ —; as well as strengthening the CPS relationships with community partners such as Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse.”

“The national awareness of sexual assault issues was heightened by the significant media coverage of the Jian Ghomeshi case, as well as coverage of the Justice Robin Camp story.”

In a Wednesday news conference, Staff Sgt. Melanie Oncescu from the Child Abuse Unit said she thinks the stigma around reporting sexually-based offences has been significantly reduced over the years.

“Ten years ago nobody talked about these offences, they just weren’t spoken about.”

WATCH: Calgary police believe stigma in reporting sexual abuse being reduced.

The report also indicates Calgary saw a 12.8 per cent spike in domestic violence reported in 2016 compared to 2015.

“Domestic violence rates have been steadily rising over the last few years and 2016 has experienced the largest increase in recent years,” the report reads. “The increases are largely represented by cases involving common assault.”

The report states that while domestic violence rates do correlate with Calgary’s economy and unemployment rates, it is not thought to be the cause of the increase.

“Healthy families can weather economic troubles without having violence become part of their lives.”

According to the report, Calgary recorded 30 homicides in 2016, a drop of 16 per cent from the 36 recorded in 2015.

In addition, the number of robberies decreased by 14.6 per cent.

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Residential break and enters dropped by 11.2 per cent while commercial break and enters remained largely unchanged, up by just half a percentage point.

According to the report, Calgary police received 559,594 calls for service in 2016, a 1.5 per cent increase compared to 2015 and 10.4 per cent above the five-year average

“When considering the deepening economic pressures impacting Calgary it is not surprising the past two years experienced similar crime volumes and call for service volumes,” the report states.

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The report also indicates drug enforcement efforts throughout 2016 shifted away from cocaine and cannabis —; to methamphetamines and opioids.

“Both drugs have appeal to the supply and demand side of the drug market due to the higher profit margins and a stronger high,” the reports states. “In addition, opioids such as fentanyl appeal to a wider demographic due to their similarities with other prescription pain medication.”

“Methamphetamines on the other hand, result in a powerful high often associated with an increase in risk taking behaviours and have been strongly correlated in arrests of prolific, high-risk offenders.”

The report will be presented during a meeting of community and protective services.

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