While most crime rates in Williams Lake are lower, in some cases considerably lower, than they were in 2008, domestic violence is on the rise.
“We’re going to be a little more deliberate with our attempts to deal with domestic violence and are going to have one constable here in Williams Lake develop a domestic violence section,” said Insp. Warren Brown during a first quarter and RCMP annual performance plan report at Tuesday’s regular council meeting.
“That person will liaise with other programs in an attempt to be more focused and pro-active with some things we can do. We are altering our victim services with a number of volunteers right now, the first time we’ve done that in a number of years,” Brown said.
Coun. Laurie Walters pointed out that domestic violence is on the rise in the province and in North America.
“It was interesting because we know it’s high here, but it’s also high in other communities,” Walters said.
Brown said he truly believes it’s also becoming more frequently reported than it was in the past.
During the presentation, he showed graphs comparing crime rates between Jan. 1 and April 30 of the years from 2008 through 2012.
In 2012 there were 10 auto crimes, compared to 85 in 2008. There were 25 break and enters of homes compared to 53 in 2008, four break and enters to businesses compared to 27 in 2008, 29 domestic violence incidents compared to 23 in 2008, 138 mischief crimes compared to 213, and three robberies with violence compared to nine in 2008. The number of calls for service was down as well — just under 2,500 compared to 3,500 in 2008.
The calls for service have remained lower the last two years than they’ve ever been; however, Williams Lake is still in the top three for calls for service in the province.
When it comes to break and enters of homes, Brown told council he’s concerned there have been 25 already.
“As we speak, people from our general investigation unit are out arresting people and retrieving property stolen over the weekend,” Brown said.
He said most robberies are related to drug activities, so one of the priorities of the RCMP is to aggressively target known drug dealers.
Priorities outlined for the next year include continuing to improve and enhance police and aboriginal relationships.
“We have a high turnover of police officers here so we endeavour to have our police officers engage themselves in a host of activities in First Nations communities,” Brown explained. “For example, we had a few of our officers out in one of the communities last week for a sweat.”
Based on the needs of aboriginal communities, the RCMP may also be invited to speak on education and awareness around issues of gang violence.
Unfortunately, Brown said, the school liaison worker has been removed and transferred to the district marijuana team.
To compensate, the city’s schools have been assigned to all four watches and each watch devotes time to the schools.
When asked by Walters if the school liaison position is gone forever, Brown said it’s a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“With increased drug activity and the number of marijuana grow-ops, we’re the squeaky wheel in the Cariboo to get the team started two and a half years ago. We’re still committed to seeing that through and I’m not sure how long that will go on for, but I would suggest it will go forward until such time as we feel we’ve made a big difference.”
By assigning the watches themselves with a greater role of liaising with the schools, Brown suggested it might mean that the RCMP are better represented in the schools.
The RCMP continues to apply for grants through the National Crime Prevention Centre, and to develop its community policing programs, and engage youth.
“We recently met with the junior council to pick the brains of the young people,” Brown said.
Continuing to focus on safer communities, by engaging in “good, old-fashioned police work,” the RCMP also reaches out to prolific and chronic offenders to sincerely try and assist them and see if there’s something in the environment they can control.
“Most often they won’t take that help.”
Compared to other jurisdictions, Williams Lake has a number of junior officers — nine out of 40.
“A good portion of the local RCMP strategy is to focus on training those junior officers, whether it be teaching them how to capture intelligence through social media or how to recruit human sources.
“Just to give them the tools that make them more sophisticated,” Brown explained.
When asked by Coun. Danica Hughes why the turnover is high amongst RCMP members in Williams Lake, Brown responded it is one of the busiest detachments with a high workload, challenging pace and exhausting.
“It’s not a desirable place to come to so we get cadets. Most cadets come and hone their skills and are then sought after by other areas in the province.
“This is a very good place to come and cut your teeth and become a very skilled and honed police officer.”
Coun. Geoff Bourdon asked about the percentage of crimes committed by repeat offenders compared to new offenders. He heard there are around 40 people who are demanding half of the police efforts in the community.
“There are some offenders who have had over 80 convictions,” Brown answered.
“For instance I’m aware of an individual, proven offender who no longer lives in our community. That person, maybe back in around 2007, may have stolen upwards of 300 vehicles.”