A small number of suspects in Guelph are being arrested over and over again before being released and starting the cycle over again, says a report shared with the Guelph Police Services Board.
Last month the board asked Guelph Police Service staff to prepare a report to look at the number of suspects who are repeatedly arrested, especially those breaching probation.
Shared with the board on Thursday, the report highlights 20 individuals who were arrested a total of 225 times and charged with 1,255 offences over a 17-month period.
Of those offences, 529 charges were laid for breach of probation and 510 were for property crimes.
The personal identifying information of the 20 individuals was not shared in the report due to privacy reasons.
One person included in the report has been arrested 23 times between January 2020 and May 31, 2021. Another suspect has 113 current charges in Guelph and a total of 230 historical charges.
Chief Gord Cobey noted a number of the individuals in the report are facing community wellness issues, including homelessness, mental health and addictions. The report offers a snapshot of the problem of recidivism, he said, but not the underlying causes.
“It would be inappropriate to not be mindful of some of the impacts or effects that lead to situations that individuals find themselves in,” said Cobey. “Those are really important things to consider when you view the numbers, because it would be very much over-simplistic to look at these numbers and think the arrests, the release, without understanding the reason.”
Cobey noted that recent changes to the Criminal Code of Canada put in place because of the pandemic actually compel the release of arrested individuals at the earliest stage.
“The Criminal Code makes it a responsibility, a requirement, that release is considered and with the least onerous conditions that are appropriate for the circumstances,” said Cobey.
Because of that change, Cobey said his instincts tell him a higher percentage of people have likely been released by the judicial system and police in the past year and a half compared to previous years.
“A comprehensive solution, I think, is only going to be found when we work together with the community to look at root causes,” said Cobey.
Mayor Cam Guthrie, who is a member of the board, said there is a frustration built up in the community about this issue.
“When we read in the media every day a car was stolen and the individual was arrested and it lays out all of the things they were arrested for and then it says … breach of probation. You see it over and over and over again,” said Guthrie.
Deputy chief Daryl Goetz said early in his career it was more likely that a suspect would be incarcerated.
“I think if you look at the data over the years, that philosophy didn’t result in deterrence or a lowering of crime rate,” said Goetz.
Those who commit violent crimes are more likely to be locked up immediately, said Goetz, while suspects who commit acts like property crime are more likely to be released with conditions.
Solving the issue of recidivism, said Goetz, will be achieved through engagement with community partners to prevent crime in the first place.
“That’s the key. We need to focus on how we stop someone from getting into an addicted lifestyle, how to prevent them from becoming homeless and prevent them from becoming violent,” said Goetz.
Despite the findings of the report, Goetz said Guelph is a very safe city.
“It really is — if you compare us to anywhere else — it is very safe. Can we improve it? Absolutely,” he said.