Durham Region may be on pace to have a record number of murders in 2017.
In the first six weeks of 2017, there have already been four murders. In all of 2016, the Durham Region Police Services (DRPS) recorded four homicides.
David Selby of the DRPS Corporate Communications Unit says murder rates have been consistent for the last 20 years. The worst year for murders in Durham Region was 1991, a year where the DRPS recorded 12 homicides.
“There’s four recorded homicides for Durham Region in 2016. A normal year for Durham would be four to six,” says Selby “There’s been many years where we had one or two, and then there’s years where we’ve had six or seven.”
There were four homicides last year, an amount Selby explains is average for a one-year period in Durham.
In Toronto there were 69 homicides in 2016. The Toronto Star reported there have been six murders in Toronto alone since the beginning of 2017.
Although the overall crime rate in Durham Region has been decreasing steadily for years, 2016 was a different story, explains Selby. It marked the first increase in crime the DRPS saw in nearly a decade.
“Crime actually increased in Durham in 2016, this is the first increase we’ve seen in major crime categories since 2008,” says Selby.
There are three major crime categories: crimes against person, crimes against property and other Criminal Code violations. In 2016 there was a slight increase in all three categories for Durham. The category which saw the highest increase was crime against person.
“Crime against a person went up 9.2 per cent in 2016 compared to 2015. Other Criminal Codes went up 1.2 per cent in 2016. Property crime went up 8.3 per cent,” says Selby.
Selby says that there is no way to explain why there was a rise.
“The chief made a presentation to regional council a couple weeks ago. We don’t know if this is a blip or if this is a new trend going slowly upward. It’s impossible to say,” says Selby.
In the four years before 2016, there was a noticeable drop in reported or known violations. In 2011, there were roughly 27,000 Criminal Code violations (minus traffic) reported. In 2015, there were roughly 24,500 violations reported.
Selby says the drop is a trend that has been observed regularly for eight years.
“Generally speaking, crime in Durham Region has consistently gone down for many, many years,” explains Selby. “Over the last eight years in Durham all crime categories have gone down.”
This is a widespread tendency that is not limited to Durham Region, he says.
“It’s a general trend that you’re seeing in other municipalities in Ontario. It’s a trend that you also see in a lot of jurisdictions in Canada as well as the U.S.”
But there was a spike in crime in 2016.
Not all criminal violations saw an increase, however. The number of drug violations went down this past year. There were 1,254 incidences registered in 2016. By contrast, in 2015 saw1,448 such incidents. Between 2015 and 2016, that’s a 13 per cent drop.
The most common crime in Durham is theft.
“Crimes against property is the biggest. Probably, number one is theft,” says Selby.
In 2016, there were 3,859 incidents of theft. In 2015 there were 3,609. That’s a seven per cent increase.
It’s hard to determine if the sudden rise of criminal activity in Durham Region over the last year is a trend that will continue or simply a statistical anomaly.
Crime continues to evolve. There are crimes today that are common which weren’t conceivable even a decade ago. This makes predicting patterns difficult for the police, according to Selby.
“The nature of crime changes on a regular basis. What was really big in crime ten years ago hardly even happens now. Some of the stuff that we’re dealing with now didn’t exist ten years ago,” says Selby. “We used to have a lot more bank robberies. Now’s there more what you call white-collar crime.