Police say coronavirus self-isolation affecting Saskatoon crime

Self-isolation is one of the driving factors in a recent decline in crime requiring Saskatoon Police Service dispatch amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Restrictions on public gatherings began on March 16, and subsequent measures and messaging have led to more people staying home. Self-isolation is the biggest factor in fewer crimes requiring an officer’s attendance, according to SPS spokesperson Alyson Edwards.

“People’s lifestyles have been dramatically changed,” Edwards told Global News.

For the month of March, Saskatoon police received 9,138 calls for service. There were 9,152 in 2019 and 8,944 in 2018. More significantly, officers were dispatched to 500 fewer calls in March 2020 than in March 2019.

Saskatoon police have encouraged people to report crime via phone or online to reduce the number of calls officers physically attend.

”We want to make sure that our staff stay healthy and well for as long as possible. We know that this is going to be a long-term response to the pandemic,” Edwards said.

Mischief, break and enters and robberies in Saskatchewan’s largest city have occurred at roughly the same rate. Edwards said those crimes are typically the result of addictions, and less likely to change due to COVID-19.

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Mental health calls were down slightly and domestic violence reports were up slightly, but Edwards said it’s too early to decipher a true trend.

Due to the pandemic, the Regina Police Service has changed the way it fields calls, and manager of strategic services Amy Balfour said work is still underway to ensure the same calls aren’t counted twice in data analysis.

“We are looking to understand what has increased, what has not and test the data to make sure it is accurate and not double-counting anything,” Balfour said in an email.

Due to social distancing, Balfour said patrol officers are intentionally spending time in areas vulnerable to break-ins like malls and businesses, rather than looking for specific people or those on warrants.

According to Saskatchewan RCMP spokesperson Jessica Cantos, it is too early to “provide a full picture” of the pandemic’s effect on the province’s 110 detachments.

“Our calls for service overall have slightly declined,” Cantos said.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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