SAULT STE. MARIE -- Violent crime in Sault Ste. Marie dropped in the first quarter of 2020, according to statistics released by police Thursday. But those same figures also show break and enters soared by 84 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

Sault Ste. Marie Police Chief Hugh Stevenson said there were 242 break and enters during the first three months of 2020, compared to only 130 a year before.

“That is why at the beginning of April, we started the break and enter units to curb this type of behaviour -- especially during COVID times,” Stevenson said.

He said one of the main reasons for the increase in break and enters is the drug industry.

“The No. 1 issue is the fact that you have a drug trade industry in all of Northern Ontario towns," Stevenson said. "Break and enter property offences fuel that drug trade, because these individuals need that product to live.”

Violent crime stats painted a slightly more positive picture. A total of 332 domestic assaults were reported to the police from January to March, compared to 360 a year earlier. When it comes to sexual assaults, the stats show that 25 cases were reported to police this year, four fewer than 2019.

When asked what the numbers looked like for April 2020 when businesses were shut down amid the pandemic, the chief said those numbers are not yet available.