Downtown Edmonton saw more violent criminal incidents while crime on the city’s light rapid transit system grew in severity in 2021, according to numbers provided by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS).
The data presented at Thursday’s police commission meeting shows a nearly 12 per cent increase in the number of violent crimes, from 2,382 in 2020 up to 2,665 last year.
“It is a large, large frustrating situation for our business communities in our downtown certainly,” Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said.
EPS also notes the stats for 2021 could rise further as a number of cases from 2021 remain under investigation and have yet to be categorized.
It estimates about one in five robberies citywide occurred Downtown.
“We have to slowly deal with these people who choose to disrupt our city and hurt people exploit vulnerable people,” McFee said.
EPS defines Downtown as including the city center but also the McCauley, Boyle Street, Central McDougall, Oliver and Queen Mary Park communities.
The total number of criminal incidents Downtown decreased overall in 2021, according to police.
While data for the first three months of 2022 wasn’t made available, McFee said early indications are that the overall downward trend is showing signs of reversing.
“First quarter trends are concerning,” he said. “We could lose some of the gains we’ve made over the past year.”
The numbers also show crime on Edmonton’s light rapid transit system steadily grew in severity from February of 2021 through the end of that year, far outpacing the city’s overall severe crime trend.
The data indicates city-wide crime severity grew by 11 per cent over the last 11 months of 2021, while crime severity at LRT and transit centers grew by nearly 60 percent.
The most severe months on record last year were in October and December, according to the data.
Police define severity as the seriousness of the criminal event. The numbers are based on a points system as calculated by Statistics Canada.
EPS says it has launched an integrated call evaluation and dispatch program aimed at more integrated, rapid response to calls for help.
It’s also launched a Downtown-specific pilot of its Human Centered Engagement Liaison and Partnership Initiative (HELP), that EPS says aims to “off-ramp people to independence and sustained positive outcomes.”
Data from Thursday shows more than one in five, about 22 per cent, of all referrals to the HELP program come from EPS’ Downtown division.