While new statistics indicate growing crime around a pandemic-fueled opioid crisis in B.C., the province’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions says providing safe injection sites can reduce those issues.
“We recognize there are concerns from some communities regarding public safety and property crime—and we hear those concerns—which is why we remain committed to supporting community safety and wellbeing throughout B.C.,” the ministry said in a statement to Glacier Media.
Statistics Canada reported July 27 that Canadian opioid-related crimes rose heavily in 2020, part of an overdose crisis fuelled by the pandemic.
In 2020, there were 5,142 opioid-related offences in Canada, representing a rate of 14 per 100,000 population, a 34% increase compared to 2019.
The numbers, released by the federal agency July 27, said B.C. led the way with 54 crimes per 100,000 population, followed by Alberta with 12 and Ontario at 10.
The larger cities with the highest rates of opioid-related offences were Kelowna (208 per 100,000 population) and Lethbridge (97), followed by Vancouver (43), Guelph (32), Abbotsford-Mission (31), Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (30) and St. Catharines-Niagara (29).
Full reporting on opioid-related issues and the pandemic effects can be found here.
In response to the report, the ministry said research indicates “establishment of safer injecting facilities results in measurable improvements to public order and no observed increase in the number of drug dealers in the vicinity of the facility.”
The statement said there have been no documented increases in charges for drug dealing or several markers of drug-related crime, including assaults, robbery, and vehicle break-ins around such sites.
And, it said, specifically regarding Insite, Canada’s oldest supervised injection site, researchers found that no change in the rate of crime could be traced to the establishment of the facility.
“Furthermore, 60% of those living/working in the area reported feeling that the site had a positive impact on public order; and more than 80% indicated that InSite should be either expanded, retained or modified,” the statement said.
The ministry said people struggling with addiction deserve to be treated with the same dignity, respect and quality of care as people living with any other health condition.
“We have a responsibility to each other, and our communities to keep compassion, respect and understanding at the forefront of our minds as we continue to continue to escalate our response to the opioid crisis,” the statement said.
The full Statistics Canada full report can be found here.