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Police calls for domestic violence, mental crises rise during pandemic

Last Updated Sep 1, 2020 at 1:25 pm PDT

Police attend the scene of a multiple shooting in Calgary, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015. New data from some of Canada's biggest police forces show major COVID-19 lockdowns across much of the country in the spring led to a sharp uptick in calls to police for domestic violence and people in a mental health crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Summary

COVID-19 lockdowns led to a sharp uptick in calls to police for domestic and people in a mental health crisis: data

Police say reports of many other crimes fell, including robbery, assault, sexual assault and impaired driving

OTTAWA — New data from some of Canada’s biggest police forces show major COVID-19 lockdowns across much of the country in the spring led to a sharp uptick in calls to police for domestic violence and people in a mental health crisis.

At the same time, police say reports of many other crimes fell, including robbery, assault, sexual assault and impaired driving.

Statistics Canada released the data today using information provided by 17 police forces across Canada between March and June.

During those months, an estimated three million people lost their jobs as restaurants, retail outlets, gyms, movie theatres and tourism businesses were forced to close.

Public safety experts and mental health advocates worried the anxiety and pressure of the pandemic was going to wreak havoc on already stressed families, leading to more domestic violence, child abuse and mental health trauma.

The initial data reported by police appears to bear witness to that, with calls to police for domestic disturbances up 12 per cent, for people in a mental health crisis up 11 per cent and for child welfare checks up almost 19 per cent.

The 17 police forces responded to more than 38,000 calls for domestic disturbances and violence in those four months, an increase of more than 4,000 such calls during the same period in 2019.

At the same time, reports of assaults fell 12 per cent, reports of sexual assaults fell 25 per cent, robbery reports were down 20 per cent, car theft fell 15 per cent and drunk driving reports were down 14 per cent.

The 17 police forces serve almost two-thirds of the Canadian population, and include the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, and forces in almost a dozen major urban centres including Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg and Ottawa.

The statistics agency warns the data are incomplete at the moment and do not represent the full picture of police reported crime but do provide a glimpse of crime in some parts of Canada during the most strict period of lockdowns due to COVID-19.

Data on this will continue to be collected until the end of the year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2020.

The Canadian Press