Sault Ste. Marie Police Service Chief Hugh Stevenson says the break-and-enter task force produced “significant results” - particularly during the last three weeks in May - in reducing the number of break-and-enter incidents to homes and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the task force has officially wrapped up its seven-week crackdown campaign, the increased compliance checks carried out as part of the task force’s regular duties will now be the responsibility of all front-line officers going forward.
“It did have an impact,” Stevenson told members of the Police Services Board Thursday, speaking about the success of the task force. “I mean, this is one parameter you can define success in terms of, it certainly caused these folks to think twice about doing break-and-enters.”
According to numbers provided by police, there were a total of 55 break-and-enters from April 20 to June 4 of this year. There were 69 break-and-enters during the same period in 2019.
Stevenson points out that in the last three weeks of May 2020 (May 11 to May 31), break-and-enters went down substantially, from 41 in 2019 to 15 in 2020.
“We absolutely wanted to show the community that we have to do something for residential and commercial [break-and-enters] during this time of instability,” said Stevenson during his presentation to the police board. “The officers did a good job. It wasn’t all about arrests, it was a lot about following up with businesses.”
Another key component of the task force, Stevenson said, was the increase in compliance checks being carried out by officers.
“It did produce breach issues, but it also let them know that we were watching them, and that has an incredible impact on the criminal subculture by destabilizing their plans to continue break-and-enters,” Stevenson said.
The increased compliance checks will now become the new normal for Sault Ste. Marie Police Service.
“One thing we are going to continue significantly is compliance checks, and all patrol [officers] have been given that objective, so that if a person was released on a recog [recognizance] and it’s their third release, we know to put on that recog [recognizance] a curfew timeline - and we do follow up on that,” Stevenson told SooToday.
The police chief believes the increased compliance checks played a large role in the drop in break-and-enters.
“Obviously the break-and-enters are done certain times when they probably should be on curfew,” said Stevenson. “And when we know they’re missing, and they know that we know they’re missing, it tends to disrupt the criminal industry.”
“I think that had a lot to do with why our numbers were so significant in terms of weekly break-and-enter totals compared to last year.”
The police service says that nearly 3,300 property checks were conducted by officers while the break-and-enter task force was in operation.