The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shelter-in-place orders across Canada have changed the way we currently live. According to police departments, this new reality has also changed crime rates across communities.
Since the State of Emergency has been declared, Durham Regional Police report that both emergency calls for service (down 11.3%) and urgent calls for service (down 5.5%) have decreased. However, routine calls for service have increased by 13.5%.
Durham Regional Police report that they have received changes in the following type of calls for service during the time period between March 17 to April 22, 2020 when comparing it to the same time period in 2019:
- Unwanted persons calls are up by 58%;
- Suspicious persons calls are up by 38%;
- Domestic and domestic-related calls are up by 14%;
- Fight calls are down by 50%;
- Theft calls are down by 21%; and
- Motor vehicle collisions are down by 47%.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ON THE RISE
Under normal circumstances, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner every six days according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Given the current pandemic, across the globe reports of familial and intimate partner violence is increasing. In response to this harsh reality, the Canadian government has recently invested $40 million in women’s shelters and sexual assault centres across the country. The government has also reported that it is providing $10 million for emergency shelters for Indigenous women and children fleeing violence.
Although Durham Regional Police and York Regional Police (increase of 22%) report an increase in domestic violence calls, police departments in Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon are not seeing an increase of this nature.
Experts warn that despite the number of calls made to the police, violence within the home may still be occurring. Specialists in the field of domestic violence are concerned that women who should leave abusive situations may be afraid to call for help. Under normal circumstances, abused women can come up with reasons to make contact with shelters by saying they were going to work or dropping children off at school. Given the pandemic, vulnerable women do not have this justification to leave the home as schools and workplaces are closed.
Abused women and children are stuck in their homes with their abusers. They may also be at more of a risk due to the overwhelming stress of the current situation. Individuals who lack coping skills might be more likely to lash out at others in their household.
Given the current situation, women who were saving money to leave an abusive situation may not be in a position to do so now as many have lost jobs and may be afraid they won’t receive child support payments given that courts are not prioritizing child support cases at this time.
Yasmine Youssef, the National Manager for Nisa Homes, a transitional home for Muslim and immigrant women and children, reported:
We’re seeing reports coming out of China, Italy and other countries that the number of domestic violence cases have tripled since the pandemic started. We know it’s definitely affection women that are [experiencing] abuse very heavily, because now the resources are very limited, and they’re stuck at home with their abuser 24/7.
Experts are afraid that the numbers from police departments are not reflective of the reality. They believe that the majority of those affected by domestic violence do not call the police. According to Marlene Ham, the executive direction of the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH):
Our fear is that there are a lot of women who are experiencing violence in their home and they may not be accessing any services or supports. We really want women to know that those services and supports are available, and there are many entry points to getting the services they need.
For those that are experiencing abuse, in an emergency call 911 or contact the Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 1-866-863-0511 or dial #SAFE on your mobile phone.
TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS DURING THE PANDEMIC
Since the pandemic began, across Ontario there are reports of fewer traffic violations, less drunk driving and fewer cases of fraud, however, in addition to the increase in domestic violence, police are finding increases in commercial break-ins and stunt driving.
Given that the roadways are less congested, some are taking this as permission to engage in stunt driving and speeding more than 50 km/h over the limit.
Stunt driving is an offence found under the Highway Traffic Act and anyone found guilty of breaking this law can be subject to a fine between $2,000 to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for a term of not more than six months. The driver’s licence may also be suspended if convicted.
Last weekend, OPP caught a 18-year-old driver and his 19-year-old passenger driving on the QEW near Burlington travelling at a speed of 308km/h. The individual was charged with stunt driving under the Highway Traffic Act and was charged with dangerous driving under the Criminal Code. His driver’s licence has been suspended for seven days and his vehicle has been impounded.
If you have been charged with a driving related offence or a domestic violence offence, please contact the knowledgeable criminal defence lawyers at Barrison Law online or at 905-404-1947. Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights. We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.