Arson-related calls are increasing in the Queen City in 2020.
Crime stats, presented at the Board of Police Commissioners meeting on Thursday, showed officers in Regina responded to over 100 arsons between January and the end of June of this year.
That's the highest total since 2016, when 90 arsons were recorded in the first six months of 2016.
Regina Police Chief Evan Bray noted the increase at the monthly Board of Police Commissioners meeting and called it a challenge in the city.
Arson, he said, accounts from everything from suspicious garbage bin fires to vacant structure fires.
Bray compared the crime to graffiti and said in some cases one individual can be responsible for a series of arsons.
"There has been some work done and in a couple of cases, successful charges laid against individuals who were responsible for a large number [of arsons]," he said.
When asked if fires at vacant structures were occurring more frequently at buildings that were either properly or improperly boarded up, as per City of Regina bylaws, Deputy Chief Dean Rae said it was a combination of both.
He noted there was a case earlier this week where suspects had appeared to remove boards from the building to gain entry.
Board member and city Coun. Barbra Young said the city will look into boarded up buildings to ensure they're not exceeding time limits laid out in the bylaw.
Rae said officers work closely with Regina Fire and Protective Services to investigate the matters.
Regina Fire Deputy Chief Neil Sundeen noted that all emergency calls, not just arson-related calls, increased so far in 2020.
Sundeen said some of the increase is being attributed to the COVID-19 "bump" and he said that's not just happening in Regina.
"We've looked at other jurisdictions as well who are similar to us… and they've noticed a similar increase," Sundeen said.
"We're concerned about it. Do we have an absolute as to what has changed, or what's going on? We don't at this time."
He said the fire department is trying to find ways to resume community engagement, which Sundeen said could help in prevention of a multitude of situations.
Engaging with young children to teach them about general fire safety, for example, is one way the fire department helps reduce calls.
It's a method Sundeen said was used in the early '90s when he was beginning his career and anecdotally, he felt it worked.
"We used to go through a tremendous amount of [awareness about] accidental fires caused by children playing with matches and lighters," he said.
"Public education, through our prevention division, is a real excellent tool to deal with those types of fires."