The Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) has released their annual report for 2022 and although crime has increased, the HRPS claims that most of it is a return to pre-pandemic levels.
All crime has gone up, but changes aren’t drastic for the most part. Some, however, are – arson, for example, went up 340% from 5 incidents in 2021 to 22 last year. Robberies have more than doubled; there were 68 in 2021 and 152 last year.
All in all, overall crime in Oakville increased 30.6% between 2021 and 2022.
A surprising revelation in the report was that officers only spend 25% of their time on crime. The vast majority goes towards resolving social issues like intimate partner violence, mental illness and drug abuse.
Lately, auto theft has been a priority for police services all across Ontario, and Halton is no different. New car buyers contend with uncertain delivery times and year-long waits. With demand so high, and supply low, stealing cars has become “a lucrative revenue stream for organized crime [groups].”
The HRPS were behind two projects, High-5 and Touchdown, that led to 415 vehicles being recovered; the total value of these vehicles is around $28.5 million. Hundreds of charges were also laid after months-long investigations and collaborations with the Port of Halifax and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).
Officers on duty have now also been trained to “proactively identify activities consistent with auto theft while on patrol.”
The public plays a crucial role in helping reduce auto theft and apprehend car thieves. The HRPS puts forth one such example in their report where an alert resident, in Oakville, observed someone examining an SUV parked in their driveway in January 2022 and notified police, which led to the arrest of three men.
This simple act by one resident led to the launch of an entire auto theft project called Eleanor, a joint operation between HRPS’ 2 District CIB and CBSA. Few months later, 32 vehicles (worth an estimated $2.2 million) were recovered, and four males were taken into custody and charged with more than a dozen combined offences.
Intimate partner violence is another issue that has been on the HRPS’ radar. In an effort to be “less intrusive and more sensitive,” they’ve made an internet-based platform “that enables investigators to interview victims from the comfort and convenience of their homes using a smart device or tablet.”
Those looking for love are also increasingly being targeted with dating scams. Online dating apps/sites can place users “at an increased risk of both heartache and fraud.”
A romance scam generally involves someone who claims to be another person, and who conveys romantic intentions with a potential victim in order to gain their affection. A victim’s goodwill is then exploited as a means to obtain money or to commit fraud against them. – HRPS
In January 2019, an investigation was launched by the HRPS’ Fraud Unit after an Oakville resident lost $70,000 in a scam. “The male suspect had initiated and maintained contact with the victim via email and text. Over time, he established trust with her, and – under the auspices of a relationship and affection – convinced her to transfer funds to him.”
The extensive, multi-year investigation culminated last year in the arrest of a 34-year-old man who allegedly targeted older victims across Canada by creating false dating profiles and aliases. He is said to have pocketed around $370,000 through these scams.
The report also revealed an increase in retail theft which is “not a victimless crime.” Retail employees are fearful of being targeted by robbers and thieves, and prices have increased as retailers aim to “recoup their losses by passing them on to customers.”
In August, the Retail Theft Unit investigated a group that had stolen $1.9 million worth of merchandise from stores across Ontario. In the end, authorities managed to seize $700,000 in cash, jewelry worth $500,000, and approximately $2 million in products stolen from multiple big-box stores throughout the GTA. 11 people were arrested.
Last year, the HRPS received $1.2 million through the Ministry of the Solicitor General’s Community Safety and Policing Grant. It will be spent over three years “to combat hate within the region through the launch of an overarching initiative entitled, #NoHateInHalton – Promoting Respect, Equity & Inclusivity in Our Community.”
They are working with Dr. Barbara Perry, Director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism as she will conduct an independent review of HRPS’ policy mandates and reporting mechanisms.
Dr. Perry interviewed service personnel and community members who are most likely to be subjected to hate or impacted by it.
According to the HRPS, portions of the grant were also used “to increase the number of personnel assigned to hate and bias-motivated crime response, as well as to offer enhanced training to all sworn and civilian members on how to best respond to these acts.”
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