New directives from the federal government following the shooting of a soldier in Ottawa mean the Salmon Arm RCMP detachment’s resources, like other police departments, will be stretched further.
Staff Sgt. Kevin Keane presented a report to Salmon Arm council on Nov. 10, explaining auxiliary police officers are no longer permitted to perform any duties unless they’re accompanied by a police officer.
The new directive means anyone wearing a police uniform must be armed, so auxiliaries, who wear uniforms, would have to be accompanied one-on-one by a police officer.
“In effect, their community policing responsibilities while in uniform have been eliminated.”
Coun. Chad Eliason asked what percentage of service Salmon Arm is going to lose with the buddy system.
Keane said it’s difficult to estimate but, along with functions such as bike and scooter rodeos, one initiative the police give to the auxiliary officers is Child Find. He described the program as “key,” given the fingerprints of children are then accessible if a child is lost or goes missing.
Along with the loss of the auxiliaries’ independence, the detachment is operating with several temporary staff vacancies.
Sgt. Carlos Tettlowski was promoted to Prince George, officers are off because of medical problems and two positions are awaiting the transfer of officers from other areas.
“As you can understand, it has been challenging times at the detachment,” said Keane, explaining that what’s been suffering most is community policing. He said the detachment is having to send regrets with increasing frequency when asked to attend community functions.
Keane noted Victims Services and Citizens on Patrol volunteers continue to do a wonderful job, adding that COP have been handling the speed board for school zone speed-limit enforcement.
Despite staffing, the overall crime rate dropped by 27 per cent last quarter over the same period last year. When he last reported to council, Keane was concerned that calls for service had not fallen with the crime rate. However, this time he told council he was pleased that calls to police have decreased proportionately.
Keane said violent crime is decreasing and, although there was a small increase in property crime in the last quarter, it is again going down.
Vehicle accidents were down 50 per cent compared to the same quarter last year.
However, “driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs remains a concern.”
Regarding drugs, officers are targeting heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.
“Methamphetamine and crack cocaine are continuously sold and used in our community, and heroin usage is comparatively high,” Keane stated in his report.
Keane noted that drugs, traffic enforcement and youth issues were council’s priorities for police last year.
He said 16 youths were charged last quarter, with 15 others diverted through other measures such as parental involvement, restorative justice, police discretion and other measures.
Keane said the detachment is not able to keep up all the efforts towards youth carried out by Const. Yvonne Dibblee, who has retired.
“I think it’s going to be difficult to recreate successes we’ve had with youth in the past.”