Chatham-Kent may have one of the lowest crime rates in Canada – 43 out of 50 municipalities of 100,000 or more people for violent crimes– but there is still work to be done and the public can help.
Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff and Police Chief Gary Conn discussed the crime severity index report at a recent Police Services Board meeting which showed that non-violent crimes, specifically property crimes, while decreasing locally, are still above the provincial and national average, according to the 2018 National Crime Severity Index (CSI).
In the CKPS business plan, property crime is top priority to address, and Conn said initiatives like the STOP program – Strategic Targeting of Property Crime – by the Community Patrol Branch and Street Crimes units – are there to chip away at that number. The strategy includes increased compliance checks on repeat chronic break-and-enter-and theft offenders to make sure they are adhering to the court-ordered conditions of their release.
The public can help the police, not by attempting to confront offenders themselves, but by calling police to report suspicious people or activity near their homes or businesses.
“We want you to be our eyes and ears, not our hands and feet,” Conn said at the board meeting. “No call is to small for us to answer to if you see something suspicious. Citizens can help us prevent crime, and even if we don’t catch the perpetrator in the act, just seeing us in the area can act as a deterrent.”
Canniff said while the report shows overall crime in Chatham-Kent as low, it’s not something the community should take for granted.
“There’s a lot of things we take for granted; the concept that if you flip a switch, electricity will come on, but not when it comes to safety,” Canniff said. “When you look at our safety stats when it comes to violent crimes, we are one of the best in Ontario. I never feel unsafe when walking anywhere in Chatham-Kent and it’s one of those things we really take for granted.”
He noted it is one of the many great things about Chatham-Kent, and the municipality is spending a great deal of resources to make it that way. While there has been no discussion with the Attorney General’s office about the chronic “catch and release” issues for repeat property crime offenders in C-K, Canniff said it needs to be said that the police resources used to constantly arrest and check up on those offenders could be utilized elsewhere.
“There’s always better ways to do things and certainly we will look to them, but as long as they (AG) are well aware of it and understand, it’s not just our municipality, it’s right across the province the amount of resources that are being put into it,” Canniff said. “They need to be more aware of it and if they could fix something for us, that would be wonderful.”
Conn noted the Attorney General’s office is aware of the problem, but they have limited resources as well.