Property crime up, but crime severity going down in Delta

This year’s crime severity index saw Delta the fifth lowest in Metro Vancouver

(James Smith photo)

Severe crime in Delta is on the decline, according to figures released by Statistics Canada.

Delta’s Crime Severity Index is going down, but not by much: between 2015 and 2016, Delta dropped from 53.92 to 53.59 for violent crime.

The Crime Severity Index (CSI) is a national measure of police-reported crime. Like crime rates, a lower CSI number is better. However, the CSI takes a comprehensive approach that takes into account the seriousness of crimes, while a crime rate is just the number.

The 2016 CSI was released by Statistics Canada on July 24.

“It’s a really important tool for us because each crime is weighted based on its impact on the community,” said Delta police chief Neil Dubord. “It’s the one statistic we look at every year as a police department.”

Delta’s CSI falls beneath the provincial average of 93.63 and the national average of 70.96.

In the Metro Vancouver area, Delta has the fifth lowest CSI. The only areas that fall below it are West Vancouver, with 52.76; the North Vancouver District, with 44.95; New Westminster, with 43.61; and Bowen Island, with 26.39.

“To us that’s indicating that we had a very good year in being able to manage our violent crime,” Dubord said.

Delta’s other bordering communities both have substantially higher CSIs: Surrey has the second highest in Metro Vancouver with 116.99, and Richmond has 11th highest with 75.54.

Overall, Delta saw a 35 per cent decrease in violent crime in 2016, and a 9.8 per cent increase in property crime.

“What this tells me is that I need to work more in relation to property crime, while still maintaining our good record with violent crime,” Dubord said.

Within Delta, instances of crime are fairly evenly distributed, Dubord said. However, much of the property crime increase happened in South Delta.

“We say it’s probably more accessible through Highway 17 and the SFPR (South Fraser Perimeter Road) now, which allows everyone to get to South Delta fairly quickly from wherever you are,” Dubord said. “And in addition we have more people coming as a result of more attractions.”

Those attractions include the Tsawwassen Mills mall, although Dubord said property crime certainly wasn’t limited to the mall.

Another important statistic for the Delta police department is the weighted clearance rate, which was also released by Statistics Canada on July 24.

“The clearance rate is something else we look at because it means we have a good ability to be able to solve some of the more serious crimes,” Dubord said.

One example of this is a case from May 2016, when a woman held a Delta probation officer at knifepoint.

Around 11:30 a.m., police received several frantic calls from the Delta probation office on Scott Road, saying that a client was holding a probation officer hostage with a four-inch knife. When police arrived, they cleared the building of the crying and screaming staff, and attempted to converse with the client.

She had bound the probation officer and barricaded them in a room. After the police talked to her for a while, they entered and arrested her.

She was charged with two counts of assault with a weapon and one count of forcible confinement. The matter is currently before the courts and awaiting disposition.

“Historically, Delta has always done very well because we have a very strong investigative department that typically takes good ownership of files and continues with their investigation right to the end,” he said.

This year, Delta’s weighted clearance rate was 23.16, around the middle of Metro Vancouver’s clearance rates. This is actually a decrease from last year, when Delta had a weighted clearance rate of 23.89.

Delta stays around the middle of the pack for solving non-violent crimes (17.98), although it’s one of the leading municipalities for violent crime with 52.23. It’s also had one of the largest increases in being able to solve violent crime, with a 27.7 per cent increase, although it can’t touch Bowen Island’s nearly 100 per cent increase in cleared crime.