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The Saint John Police Force headquarters, located at One Peel Plaza. Image: Staff photo

Violent crime, property crime up in Saint John

By Brad Perry Jan 10, 2024 | 5:14 PM

Saint John saw an increase in violent crime over the past year, according to year-end figures from police.

There were 1,294 violent crime files in 2023, an increase of five per cent over 2022 numbers.

It includes assault, family violence, criminal harassment, robbery, sex offences, threats, and weapons offences.

Chief Robert Bruce said he believes a lot of the increase has to do with the drug trade.

“We’re seeing a number of incidents of drug dealer-on-drug dealer, so we’re seeing within that group, there’s more violence,” Bruce said following Tuesday’s Saint John Board of Police Commissioners meeting.

Property crimes — including thefts, break and enter, damage to property, fraud, and possession of property obtained by crime — saw a year-over-year increase of 16 per cent.

There were 2,689 files reported in 2023, compared to 2,316 files the previous year.

Bruce said they are seeing a lot of “theft of opportunity” throughout the city.

“I think that speaks to the social climate in the city as well,” said Bruce. “People steal things not to use it themselves but to get money to do other things, specifically for drug habits.”

Mental health-related calls increased nearly 19 per cent, with 2,287 calls in 2023 compared to 1,925 calls in 2022.

Bruce said those statistics are estimates only due to the variability in the data collection.

“Mental health calls may not come in as mental health calls,” he said.

For example, said the chief, a call about a suspicious person could turn out to be a mental health-related file.

Arrests were down 19 per cent to 1,154, the number of charges fell five per cent to 1,871, and the number of citations issued decreased 22 per cent to 1,092.

Motor vehicle collisions remained steady from one year to the next, with 1,957 incidents reported in 2023.

Bruce said the police force recorded 82 impaired driving files, down from 92 the previous year.

“You could look at that a couple of ways: we’re not getting as many or we’re doing a good job at preventing it,” he said.

The chief said they saw a lot of designated drivers during their Festive R.I.D.E. checkstops and more people using taxis and ridesharing.

Overall, the Saint John Police Force handled 60,124 calls for service last year, an increase of more than six per cent.