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Violent crime continues to rise in York Region, police say

York police report violent crime has jumped 63 per cent over the past five years, however, property crime remains the most common type of incident

Violent crime is on the rise at an alarming rate in York Region, police statistics show.

Violent crime has increased 63 per cent over the past five years, according to police-reported data presented to the York Region Police Services board May 22.

There were 8,837 incidents of crime in 2019, 8,830 in 2020, 9,777 in 2021, 11,935 in 2022, and 14,410 in 2023, according to the latest data.

“While there are few violent crime cases compared to property crime, the growth rate does outpace it,” said Steven Pinto, manager of the strategic services bureau.

Many forms of violent crime, including assaults and sexual violations, are showing long-term increases, statistics show.

There have been 6,928 assaults in 2023, compared to 5,635 in 2022; 1,233 sexual violations in 2023 from 1,104 in 2022; 522 robberies in 2023 compared to 455 in 2022, and 47 home invasions in 2023 compared to 27 in 2022.

“Sexual violations include the increases we’re seeing in intimate partner violence, and robberies include the increases of retail theft, carjacking, and street-level robberies,” said Pinto.

Property crime remains the most prevalent crime in the region, accounting for 59 per cent of all police-reported crime.

There have been 32,472 calls for property crime, 14,410 for violent crime, 6,019 for other, 886 drug offences, 761 involving weapons, and 43 federal crimes in 2023.

The trend of property crime ascended after a dip five years ago. According to data, there were 25,423 crime incidents in 2019, dropping to 21,340 in 2020, increasing to 22,504 in 2021, 26,402 in 2022, and 32,472 at last count in 2023.

The bulk of property crime is theft, with 17,844 incidents and about 2,411 break-and-enter.

Police have received more calls of service for property crime in York Region as the rate of incidents continues to increase each year.

Police note that York Region remains a safe community, as the crime rate is consistently lower than the national and provincial averages. Further, until 2023, the majority of police work involved non-criminal incidents.

Police state more weapons are being used in crime. There have been 218 gun-based weapon crimes in 2023, about 215 armed subjects encountered by officers, and 183 youth charges for assault with a weapon in 2023.

“In frontline terms, members are seizing more weapons, and they’re seeing more weapons being used during criminal incidents,” said Pinto. “The growing reality is our members are facing more weapons in the community, and increasing cases like this impact their mental health.”

Vehicle thefts and carjacking persist as a major problem. There have been 3,951 stolen vehicles, and 1,827 recovered vehicles in 2023. There have been 3,064 stolen vehicles and 1,311 recovered vehicles in 2022.

“During 2023, the auto cargo unit conducted a number of major projects resulting in the arrests of 49 individuals and recovered 392 vehicles valued at over $31 million,” said Pinto.

For carjacking incidents, there have been 17 with firearms involved and 40 without in 2023. There have been 20 with firearms involved and 36 without in 2022.

Police state with a climbing stolen vehicle rate, a more significant number of firearms are involved during carjacking incidents. Carjacking is the term used to describe a violent form of vehicle theft.

Intimate partner violence and family violence are on the increase. There have been 3,004 incidents of noncriminal intimate partner violence and 3,858 incidents of criminal intimate partner violence in 2023.

There have been 3,285 incidents of noncriminal intimate partner violence and 2,943 incidents of noncriminal intimate partner violence in 2022.

Pinto notes that crime has become more complex, as there is more violent crime, and crime involving more people, networks, and sophistication. He said police are tackling more cases than ever, impacting their clearance rate. 

Board member Walter Perchal acknowledged the complexities of crime and appreciated that police are aware of emerging trends and adapting.

“We are into the age of complex crime because we’re no longer dealing with single organizations. We’re dealing with organizations that have come together and made joint venture arrangements that facilitate all kinds of things from car theft to fentanyl use across the country,” said Perchal. 

Perchal asked if the force has the appropriate support and resources. Chief Jim MacSween responded they do not have everything they need but are trending toward that point, working with the Criminal Intelligence Service of Ontario, for example.

MacSween said police have plans in place to deal with cybercrime and the use of artificial intelligence.

“We will be heavily regulated because AI will have significant uses for police,” said MacSween. “We will be heavily regulated. Criminals will not. How do we stay ahead of that? That is going to be a significant challenge for every police agency across the country, but those discussions will happen on a regular basis.”