Property crime in Calgary skyrocketed in early 2015, study finds

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CALGARY—A 2015 property crime spike in Alberta’s largest city was likely linked to the start of the opioid crisis and recession in the oilpatch, a new study found.

The average number of property crimes — robberies, break-and-enters and vehicle thefts — has increased by 50 per cent since 2015, found the study, released by the University of Calgary on Wednesday. It also recommends addressing social problems to cut down on losses from crime.

“Policies aimed at addressing these social problems would benefit society at large.”

Crime usually fluctuates with the seasons — more incidents happen in the hotter months, while winter usually means a slowdown. But instead of a decline in property crime at the end of 2014, the Calgary police data used in the study shows a sudden uptick in break-and-enters, vehicle thefts and robberies.

The report doesn’t definitely point to one cause. However, it does spotlight Calgary’s economic woes and the province’s opioid crisis as plausible explanations.

Calgary’s unemployment rate began to creep upwards in March 2015 amid plummeting oil prices and oilpatch layoffs. The timing is consistent with other evidence linking economic downtown with rising property crime rates, the researchers note.

The study also points to data from Alberta Health Services showing deaths due to the powerful opioid fentanyl tripled between 2014 and 2015.

“To the extent illegal drug use is costly to finance, the timing of the opioid crisis is also a plausible explanation for the rise in property crimes,” the report reads.

Emma McIntosh is an environment, justice and investigative reporter based in Calgary. Follow her on Twitter at @EmmaMci

Source: The Star Calgary