The first quarter has passed for the Salmon Arm RCMP and police are noticing that while the numbers might be down, the problem of violence is not letting up.
Prior to providing his quarterly report to city council, Staff Sgt. Kevin Keane said he spoke with his sergeant, Carl Tettolowski, and discussed what trends they’re seeing in the city. And, what they’re seeing is an increase in violence that doesn’t end up leading to convictions.
Statistically, violent crime is down in the municipality, with 39 incidents this year, as opposed to 43 in the first quarter of 2011. Rural incidents are up from 10 to 17. Cases of assault are also down in the city from 31 to 26, though assault cases in the “other” category were up from 1 to 7 in the city, and 0 to 3 rural. Keane noted not all issues of violence attended by officers can be categorized under the criminal code.
“It manifests itself in crime, like assaults and assault with a weapon and all those crime codes that we have, but… most of the time they don’t even meet that threshold,” said Keane. “They’ll be disturbance calls or they’ll be neighbourhood complaints or these kinds of issues. And what happens is they’ll get escalated either by the police or by a bystander before we get there.”
Keane added officers are also seeing an increase in violence related to intoxication and/or emotional issues.
“People are self-medicating out there, everything from folks that need to be hospitalized to people under extreme angst… and it’s coming out in violent or socially unacceptable ways,” he said.
Another area of increased activity is property crime, particularly in the southeast quadrant of the city. Keane said, however, that this is mostly to do with incidents of shoplifting and theft from vehicles.
“It’s interesting that they’re spiking at the same time all of our clients are coming out of jail that we put in last year,” Keane added. “Sometimes my job is easy. However, we have those people tracked and targeted; it’s handy when they’re under some form of court conditions… so that when we do find them walking down the alley at two o’clock in the morning, we have a means to arrest them other than just waving a finger at them.”
Regarding drugs, Keane credited his plain-clothes officers for doing a great job on getting a handle on the local drug trade. He says officers are targeting issues of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, which are big in the community. He noted a person recently taken down over a dial-a-dope operation appeared in court that day, with a condition that he is not to carry a cell phone.
“He showed up in court with a cell phone, so he was arrested there, and when the policeman answered the phone, they wanted 20 rocks of crack…,” said Keane. “It shows you how it never ends for us.”
Keane added the drug issues are tied up with the others issues of crime and people struggling in the community.
Staffing remains at a 42 per cent vacancy rate due to medical and paternity issues. Shortages are being covered with staff moved out of plain-clothes investigation and traffic.
The detachment now has seven auxiliary constables, though Keane explains they are complementary, not supplementary, and they are not sent out “in a police car investigating calls.”
Expecting it to be hot this summer, Keane said a big worry at the detachment is forest fires, and that contingency plans are being made, particularly scheduling, so that officers will be available at key times if they’re needed.
Another summer issue, this one raised by council, is enforcement on the lake. Coun. Alan Harrison noted there was a lot of enforcement on the lake last year, and Keane said council, and the public, could expect similar levels this year.
Over the first quarter, the detachment completed 1,527 calls for service, made 609 traffic stops, arrested and housed 180 prisoners and have 177 ongoing investigations.
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