EDMONTON – Edmonton’s police force tried to clarify Monday comments its chief made last week that out-of-work oilpatch workers could be to blame for the city’s recent rise in crime.
On the weekend, the Edmonton Police Service released tables and charts that it said shows monthly crime statistics in Edmonton climbing over the past 12 months as oil prices dropped to record lows.
On Monday, deputy chief Brian Simpson spoke to reporters on the steps of police headquarters.
“It’s not linked to oil prices,” he said. “It’s linked to the change in the economy that we experience in Alberta. This has been an Alberta experience for a long time.”
The department had said the data was provided in response to a request from Melissa Blake, the mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, that Chief Rod Knecht back up his claim that low oil prices and crime were connected.
“The price of oil is not the only factor behind a higher crime rate — population growth in the city and the local unemployment rate are also contributing factors,” the news release on Sunday said.
“However, as the statistics show, the connection between the price of oil and crime rates in the city is clear.”
Knecht said last week a lot of people are coming back to Edmonton from Fort McMurray and Cold Lake and are sitting around in Edmonton waiting for the price of oil to go back up so they can go back to work.
Blake called the comments “unjust.”
Simpson said the shadow population that comes to Edmonton comes from all over northern Canada, and is not directly related to a downturn in the oilpatch.
“It’s mainly property crimes are the biggest impact that we’re seeing across the board,” Simpson said. “I think we’re up about 18-plus per cent at this point and the other thing is violent crimes. We’re seeing an increase as well.
“A lot of those violent crimes in the policing environment relate back to drug usage in terms of our experience.”
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson also weighed in on the debate last week, saying the downturn in the economy means Edmonton ends up policing “northern Alberta’s problem children.”
Blake said last week that she would welcome an apology from Knecht and Iveson, saying it seemed like her community was “an easy target.”
The EPS will be asking city council for 80 additional officers during budget deliberations in November.
(CHED, CTV Edmonton, The Canadian Press)