Pandemic forced Calgary Police to absorb $12M in unplanned costs

It’s been more than a century since Calgary police had to cope with a pandemic anything like COVID-19.

“With all the challenges, 2020 has been a difficult year for police officers,” Mark Neufeld, chief of the Calgary Police Service, told city councillors on Wednesday.

Neufeld answered questions from members of city council’s community and protective services committee on the annual report submitted by the Calgary Police Service.

He said that the service had successfully absorbed $12 million in unexpected costs last year.

That was made up of lower than expected fine revenues as there were fewer vehicles on the streets and fewer tickets handed out.

CPS also faced higher costs due to an increased number of sick days due to COVID-19 and the unplanned need for extra personal protective equipment for officers and staff.

Crime stats affected

The chief said the pandemic also meant it was anything but a normal year for crime in Calgary.

Property crimes, domestic violence, sex offences, youth offences and assaults were all lower in 2020 than in the previous year.

Service requests from the public were down 8.7 per cent last year from 2019.

However, there were 34 homicides last year. That’s up from 20 in 2019.

Shootings on Calgary’s streets also increased. There were 112 last year. In 2019, there were 89 shootings.

Mark Neufeld, chief of the Calgary Police Service, is seen in this file photo. Neufeld answered questions from members of city council’s community and protective services committee on Wednesday. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

“2020 was and will be a statistical anomaly due to COVID-19,” said Neufeld.

He said while the number of shootings increased, a big push on gang violence meant that significantly fewer of those crimes were related to gangs and organized crime.

Renewed focus on guns

As well, the police put a new emphasis on guns in 2020.

He said nearly 1,200 guns were seized by his officers last year. Of that number, 507 were what he called “crime guns.”

That means they were seized as part of a criminal investigation and the weapons had been used, possessed or stored illegally.

Police involvement in ensuring public safety at protests was also a significant factor for CPS last year.

Neufeld said in 2016, police attendance was required at 334 protests or demonstrations. In 2020, that number ballooned to 699 events.

A number of those protests were anti-racism marches, sparked by the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Looking forward, Neufeld said he’ll be watching a number of expected crime trends as Calgary comes out of the pandemic which will require added police attention.

He’s anticipating an increase in socio-economic related crimes in 2021 as well as more protests and more hate-motivated crimes.

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