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Assaults drop dramatically

Guy Quenneville
Northern News Services
Wednesday, May 09, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - The number of assaults in Yellowknife has dropped dramatically in the last two years, the RCMP says.

According to statistics recently released by the RCMP, there were 847 cases of assault in 2004. In 2006, the number of assaults recorded fell to 433.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Julie Gould-Benreddad, a co-ordinator with the Salvation Army, poses in front of Franklin Avenue. The Salvation Army and the RCMP have been working together to deter repeat offenders from hanging around downtown - a move that has caused crime in Yellowknife to decline, according the RCMP - Guy Quenneville/NNSL photo

The number of break and enters has also declined, with 343 recorded cases in 2004 having shrunk to 166 in 2006.

Similarly, the number of sexual assaults fell from 49 in 2004 to 39 in 2006.

The statistics were unveiled recently to city council by Inspector Roch Fortin, former Yellowknife detachment commander.

Fortin said the numbers were gathered by running reports from occurrence statistics.

He stressed that although the numbers may not be 100 per cent correct due to a switch in data-gathering programs, the trend of diminishing crime is accurate. In recent months, the RCMP has received 100 fewer calls per month from the public, said Fortin.

"That's the result of our crime reduction strategy," he said.

The strategy, begun in late 2005, is a partnership between the RCMP and several other organizations, including the Salvation Army, the Department of Corrections, and Health and Social Services.

Offenders referred to the Salvation Army by the RCMP sit down with a case worker to determine which program would best suit them, whether it be a drug recovery program or one aimed at supplying the offender with volunteer or work opportunities. Fortin said the strategy is meant to ensure the RCMP "makes the most effective use of our time." Fortin cites one repeat offender in particular, who was arrested 100 times in a year, as the reason Yellowknife needs a program like this.

"We had two offenders that have made positive comments saying that the RCMP saved their life, or that they were appreciative of RCMP's efforts to redirect them toward the right path."

In one case, an offender surrendered under the bulk of attention he received, said Fortin.

"It came to our attention that one individual, who had been dealt with two or three times, didn't like all the attention that was given to him, and he decided to move on to Edmonton."

Julie Gould-Benreddad, assistant community ministries co-ordinator for the Yellowknife Salvation Army, said the initiative is a more "holistic" approach to getting people off the streets.

"We sit down with the person and they explain what happened and why they are on the street at this time. We talk about how we can get them off the street and then do an individual assessment. Maybe if was their wife who kicked them out, or they have addiction problems, a death in the family that they don't know how to hand. We then suggest an appropriate program for them."

Gould-Benreddad said she has noticed a high number of volume of people coming in for help lately.

"The level of violence in the shelter has gone down," she added.