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Statement from the Chief on sexual assault

Mon June 15, 2020

An important conversation regarding sexual assault, and the Saint John Police Force’s historical response to cases of sexual assault, took place on-line recently.

I wanted to take this opportunity to talk to the community about the priority focus we place on addressing sexual assault crimes, the services available to support victims, and the way we track our progress investigating and punishing these crimes.

Sexual violence is any harmful behavior felt of a sexual nature which is unwanted and takes place without the consent of the survivor. It happens every day in New Brunswick. Yet less than 1 in 20 cases are reported .

We encourage survivors to come forward and report these crimes. In an emergency situation, call 9-1-1. Other ways to reach us in a non-emergency situation are by phone (506) 648-3333, by email at saintjohn.ca or by coming into the station at 1 Peel Plaza.   

The Force has both sworn and civilian members who, together with a variety of community support groups, are available to work with any survivor of sexual violence and investigate their case.

In addition, our victim services unit is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week to offer support through crisis intervention and long-term follow up for anyone that has been a victim of crime or who has suffered a traumatic event.

In 2017, the Globe and Mail published a national study on the percentage of sexual assault cases deemed ‘unfounded’ by police across the country between 2010 and 2014. You can find that story here: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/investigations/unfounded-sexual-assault-canada-main/article33891309/

With a provincial rate of 32 per cent (vs. the national average of 19 per cent), it was evident that urgent analysis was required – including here in Saint John, where it was reported our city had among the highest averages in the country, at 51 per cent.

In Saint John, my predecessor Chief Bates led an internal review that found the Force had been using the term ‘unfounded’ in a way that is inconsistent with other forces in the province and across the country. It had been used too broadly (for example, if there was insufficient evidence, the suspect could not be identified or if the victim no longer wanted to proceed with the investigation); officers were closing files using the incorrect classification of ‘unfounded’ instead of ‘not cleared’ or ‘cleared otherwise.’

Since that time, we’ve worked closely with other Canadian forces to standardize the way we classify data to ensure we produce accurate studies and reporting that we can share with the community in a transparent way that allows for comparison and continued action.

Once adopted, the more standardized approach revealed that unfounded sexual assaults in Saint John were 12 per cent in 2017, 13 per cent in 2018 and 13 per cent in 2019.

Although consistent with what is generally seen in other Canadian centres, we know there is still work to do here in Saint John.

We take sexual assault allegations and the protection of survivors’ rights very seriously, and always strive to do better to ensure victims are heard and supported.

Further resources are available at:
https://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/corporate/promo/sexual_violence.html.html