Overall, crime rates in Sault Ste. Marie dropped significantly in 2008, says the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service's annual statistical report.
Finalized about a week ago and delivered to members of the Police Services Board at their meeting yesterday, the report shows a 50 percent drop in motor vehicle thefts and a 54.9 percent drop in attempted motor vehicle thefts in 2008, as compared to the previous year.
Police Chief Bob Davies says he doesn't know what prompted the significant drop in auto thefts but he was happy to see that concerted police efforts in other areas seem to have paid off.
The report also shows a 28.1 percent drop in break-and-enters to residences and businesses, and a drop of 29.3 percent in attempted break-and-enters.
Davies attributes much of this to the targeted enforcement measures he calls "intelligent" policing.
On break-ins, he says: "We did a couple of mini-projects where we targeted a couple of individuals that we did know were into that type of activity and did a lot of pro-active enforcement."
Davies said police visited the homes of people they knew were under court order to be in at a certain time to make sure they were obeying that condition.
If they weren't there, then they were tracked down and charged with breach of conditions, which could result in incarceration.
"This kept a lot of potential break-and-enter artists off the street," the chief said. "As well, we've stepped up our drug enforcement."
Davies said there is definitely a correlation between drugs and addicts who need instant cash, and property crimes such as armed robbery and break-and-enter.
"Last year we expanded our street team," he said. "We're after individuals who are robbing our corner stores to get cash to pay off drug debts, as well as needing extra cash to continue to purchase drugs."
Robberies were down 16.1 percent and residential break-and-enters dropped 30 percent.
Davies said police measures in the past year have become more effective because they are relying more on statistical analysis of crimes to plan their activities.
"Whatever the crime pattern is, we can pretty well predict, based on the history and the experience, where the next crimes are going to be," Davies said. "We can target our officers, do surveillance and assign officers to investigate before they happen."
There were significantly more sudden deaths, 43.1 percent more, and Davies attributed that to an aging population and changing lifestyle.
He said that police are always called to attend with the coroner at the scene of a sudden death, and more people are choosing to leave hospital with terminal illnesses to die at home with their families.