Williams Lake sheds crime capital label

Williams Lake can no longer be known as the crime capital of Canada.

Williams Lake can no longer be known as the crime capital of Canada.

The city is now ranked at number four in the country when it comes to violent crime and number five when it comes to non-violent and overall crime severity, according to the 2010 crime severity numbers from Statistics Canada.

“Obviously we would like to be as low on that as we could possibly be, but now we’re not number one,” says Cpl. Jason Pole of the Williams Lake RCMP detachment. He says the rate reduction is directly correlated to a number of programs and initiatives, including the prolific offenders program that focuses on a core group of offenders.

“It’s been known for quite some time that statistically speaking you have a very small percentage of people in a community that are typically responsible for a very large percentage of the crime, and when you focus on those individuals you start to reduce crime.”

Another program Pole says has contributed to a decrease in crime is the CRIME program, which uses resources specifically focused on marijuana grow operations.

“It allows the police here in Williams Lake to move on to other issues,” he says. “The CRIME program has been very successful. It’s my understanding they’ve done almost one search warrant per week for a year now.”

He says those particular investigations can be time and resource consuming, so the dedicated team allows pressure to come off the general members in Williams Lake.

Pole adds that the RCMP also look at their objectives for the year and where to focus their efforts.

“At our detachment, it’s youth and the ability to … concentrate on crime, drug crime and gang crime,” he says. “We’re also concentrating on impaired driving. We’re concentrating on search warrants. Our relationship and doing our best to help the native community as well also falls into that.”

Community involvement, he says, has also increased in the form of helping prevent, detect, and report crime. Community policing has also “done a tremendous amount of work.”

Pole says since RCMP members can’t be everywhere at once, Citizens on Patrol members throughout the city make a big difference.

“They see something that needs our attention and we get a call right away, rather than that going unnoticed for heaven’s knows how long,” he says. Another instrumental program, he says, is restorative justice.

“One of the biggest challenges B.C. as a province faces is the amount of court time we need versus the amount of court time we have,” he says. “If we are able to resolve an issue very quickly to everyone’s satisfaction and eliminate that (through restorative justice), it means there are one or two more officers available to deal with the next issue.”

He notes all issues can’t rest with the detachment, as there are broader issues that the community and the province need to help address.

He adds that while the detachment would always like to have more police officers, he says that is not always fiscally possible.

“If we could wave a magic wand and say, could we have 100 more officers tomorrow to assist us, certainly we’d say let’s get more officers. Is that realistic? We always have to balance that.”

He says he would also like to see support for programs like the CRIME team continue wherever they can since they allow officers to address crime issues in Williams Lake proper.

“When you look at the drop Williams Lake has had in any given crime set, in the past few years, I think it’s obvious the things that have been done so far are having an effect,” Pole adds. “It’s taken a long time to get where we are and nothing is going to happen overnight, but I think we would obviously want to urge the members of the community to continue their support and their involvement.”

The city receiving a ranking of number one for 2010 is North Battleford, Sask, which is followed by Thompson, Man. at number two.