By Kirsten Clarke
With a focus on believing victims, the number of recorded sexual assault police files has increased dramatically in Richmond over the past year.
Cpl. Dennis Hwang of the Richmond RCMP said a new method of data collection, that follow recommendations from large police organizations in the wake of the MeToo movement, has meant a 27 per cent increase from August to September of this year. It also more than doubled the number of incidents recorded when comparing September 2018 to September 2019.
According to reports presented by RCMP to council at monthly community safety meetings, there were 23 sexual offence files in September.
September’s incidents were also much higher than the five-year average of 11.
In February 2017, following significant media coverage regarding sexual assault reporting, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS), the Police Information and Statistics Committee and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police developed recommendations for changes to police records methodology.
The change in reporting came into effect in January.
Particular attention was placed on classifying founded and unfounded cases, according to the RCMP.
“The recommended changes focus on belief of the victim, unless there is concrete evidence to prove the incident did not occur,” said Hwang.
In total, there were 175 sexual offence files from January through September of this year, compared to the same period last year which had 110 files.
October saw 17 sexual offence files, which is also more than double the number of incidents reported in October 2018. Data for November is not yet available.
As of January, founded occurrences include offences where it has been determined an incident either took place or was attempted, explained Hwang, or there was “no credible evidence to confirm the incident did not take place.”
Hwang added that the 23 sexual offence files did not involve a serial offender or put the community at risk, and that Richmond’s sex offence rate is below that of Surrey, Burnaby and Coquitlam, which all saw a similar increase in 2019.
“The increase from 2018 to 2019 is significant, but consistent across all jurisdictions,” said Hwang, adding the increase is “mostly attributed to the CCJS changes.”
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