The Saskatoon Police Service isn’t hitting its target for responding to the most serious calls, according to a report presented Wednesday at a meeting of the city’s Board of Police Commissioners.
Police have a goal of making it to 80 per cent of priority one calls within 12 minutes. According to the service’s annual report card, they only hit the mark 61 per cent of the time in 2015.
Police Chief Clive Weighill said it’s too early to tell what’s behind the shortfall. He said he’s concerned the statistics are being skewed because several new types of calls were added to the ‘priority one’ category over the last two years.
In the past, Weighill said only three or four types of calls got the most serious ranking — things like homicides or officers in need of assistance. He said things like assaults were added to the list.
“A lot of those physical violent crimes we try and get those into the priority one now, which were priority two,” he said.
Weighill said the service is undergoing a full independent review of its operations, which is expected to wrap up before the end of the year. He said he expected the review would uncover whether the response time issue is a statistical anomaly, or the result of other factors.
“Do we need more police officers? Is it because the way the criminal justice system is structured now, we have to do a lot more paperwork and a lot more video things that’s dragging our investigations out longer and tying us up? Is it because the city is growing and the distance we’re driving is further?” he said.
The annual report card mainly works by comparing numbers from a previous calendar year with a five-year average, then assigning points based on whether a given category comes in above or below that average.
The service lost points for having the response times miss the target. Overall, they got a grade of 7.25 out of 10 for 2015.
Weighill said that number should actually be an 8.25 because a deduction for issuing less traffic tickets than the five-year average shouldn’t count. He said Saskatoon police don’t collect data from thousands of tickets issued by a joint traffic unit run alongside the RCMP.
“They spend about a third of their time in the city here, and issue tickets in the city. And that should be added to the number,” he said.
Weighill said that because the joint traffic unit is still an SGI pilot project, the SPS is reluctant to spend money changing its record keeping to add those tickets in.
The report card showed overall crime down in Saskatoon, particularly violent crimes against the person.
But the SPS did take deductions for increases in thefts under $5,000, break and enters and weapons charges.
Weighill said those increases are common to every major city in Western Canada, and are being fueled by the trade in synthetic drugs like crystal meth and fentanyl.
“Once you’re addicted, the only thing you’re worried about is getting more meth. And that’s where we’re seeing a lot of the thefts occur, and break and enters,” he said.