The pair of George Street stabbings over the past two weekends are not part of a rising trend in violent crime, said Insp. Jason Sheppard of the RNC.
“Violent crime has not increased statistically,” he said. “We’re right on the mark where we have been, if not lower, than in previous years.”
Supt. Jason Sheppard of the RNC speaks to the media Monday about recent stabbings. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
“It could just be a matter of two groups with friction a week apart, then we could go six to eight months and not have any more,” he said. “Time will have to tell.”
In the first assault, which happened on March 29, 18-year-old Jake Long is accused of stabbing a 36-year-old man outside a nightclub on George Street. The two do not appear to have known each another.
In the second assault, said Sheppard, the 20-year-old accused and the 24-year old victim did know one another.
There are around 25 assaults downtown every year, Sheppard said. “Whether they’re known to each other or just random acts because people are in close quarters downtown drinking, 25, 27, 28 is normal for the year, and we haven’t seen an increase since 2010.”
Between 2010 and 2013, 10 assaults in St. John’s involved a weapon, Sheppard said.
It’s the first time Seamus O’Keefe, executive director of the George Street Association, has seen this kind of violence since becoming director of the association five years ago. There’s been other criminal activity, he said — assaults, spiked drinks, gang activity — but these are the first stabbings.
“We haven’t seen any noticeable affect on business,” he said, “But we’ll have to wait and see.”
O’Keefe said he would like to see increased police presence on George Street — “as many (officers) as possible.” Currently there are no police units dedicated to the street.
The number of police will increase as the weather gets warmer and more people start hitting the bars, said Sheppard. Between June and September there will be a permanent police presence.
Beyond the police, O’Keefe said a number of other factors might help improve safety on George Street, including brighter street lights, earlier closing times and more taxi service.
Sheppard agreed about the increased taxi service.
“If there aren’t enough taxis downtown to disperse the crowd when they get out, then obviously people are hanging around for longer periods of time, waiting for taxis, getting frustrated.”
Sheppard said the 12 cameras installed on George Street in 2011 are one initiative that has helped reduce criminal activity and helped police identify suspects when a crime does occur.
Because of the cameras, he said, “we’ve had hardly any break and entries, very few assaults. Property damage is down.”
With a number of assaults and robberies being reported across the city, it may appear that the amount of violent crime is on the rise, Sheppard said. But statistics don’t support this conclusion, he said. What has increased, he said, is the level of violence in some of these recent assaults.
“Sometimes you may see the level of violence in an incident may be higher, and then … you know, people get concerned because of the level.”