The Lacombe Police service said calls are beginning to rise up to pre-pandemic levels. (Black Press file photo)

The Lacombe Police service said calls are beginning to rise up to pre-pandemic levels. (Black Press file photo)

Lacombe police calls rising after pandemic lows

Police calls fell sharply in 2020 but rose 13 per cent in 2021

Lacombe Police Service saw calls climb 13 per cent last year from the previous year’s COVID-19-influenced low.

“We saw a significant drop in 2020 with occurrences and we’re starting to move back to normal numbers in 2021,” said Lacombe Police Chief Lorne Blumhagen. “In 2022, we anticipate we will be close to those five-year averages again.”

Police took 5,949 calls in 2021, up from 5,254 in 2020. Despite the increase, calls remain nine per cent below the five-year average of 6,459 calls, said Blumhagen in his annual report on Tuesday.

In 2017, there were 7,095 calls, 7,042 in 2018 and 6,953 in 2019.

The second full year of COVID showed some unexpected statistics. While some had raised concerns the stress of COVID on families through isolation, unemployment and confinement could lead to increased domestic violence that is not reflected in police statistics.

Domestic violence calls fell 25 per cent to 165 in 2021, compared with 219 calls the previous year “which was somewhat contrary to what we thought would happen during the pandemic,” Blumhagen said. “There are a number of theories for that but the percentage decrease is favourable.”

Uttering threats calls also fell just over three per cent to 30 from 31.

However, mental health calls were up four per cent to 138 calls, from 133 in 2020 and above the five-year average of 128.

There was also a big spike in fraud calls. They were up 74 per cent to 120, compared with 69 in 2020. That is still well below the five-year peak of 215 calls in 2017.

“Much of this was due to frauds being committed through the Internet or the phone, but mostly online-type fraudulent scams where individuals in our community were sending money in excess of $5,000 so frauds did go up by an alarming amount,” said Blumhagen.

“We continue to try to educate vulnerable groups in this area and to educate the public as well.”

The pandemic also had a significant effect on collisions. There were 151 collisions in 2021, up from 140 in 2020, but down 62 per cent from the 245 collisions in 2019, the five-year peak. Hit and runs doubled in 2021 to 38 from 19 the previous year.

Traffic violations also follow the trend of a huge drop in 2020 and an increase in 2021. There were 2,017 traffic tickets handed out last year, compared with 1,265 in 2020, which was down from a pre-pandemic high of 2,495 in 2019.

Mayor Grant Creasey said he was surprised that the city’s officer-per-population ratio was below the provincial average. Lacombe has one police officer per 608 residents, compared with the Alberta average of 593 and the national average of 541.

Blumhagen said while slightly below average, the 22-member Lacombe Police Service relies on other enforcement agencies for many specialized services, which have an impact on the ratio.

The city’s crime severity index among the best among Alberta municipalities at 60.51 and ranks 153rd out of 300 communities across Canada.

“We did very well in that area and I think we will continue to see that trend moving forward and when the statistics come out in 2022,” said Blumhagen.

Other 2021 statistics in the report (2020 in brackets):

•Weapons offences — 11 (23)

•Drugs — 7 (34)

•Assaults — 78 (86)

• Sexual assault — 19 (24)

• Robbery — 2 (1)

•Impaired driving — 20 (22)

•Criminal driving — 31 (46)

•Theft over $5,000 — 38 (56)

•Theft under $5,000 — 133 (138)

•Mischief — 126 (116)

•Break and enters — 31 (27)

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