In his quarterly update to city council Tuesday Williams Lake RCMP Insp. Milo MacDonald covered calls for service, outside police aid, community impact statements and the need for transitional housing.
Police calls for service were up so far in 2016 due to a spike in criminal activity in January, MacDonald said.
In January alone there was an increase of theft of vehicles by 166 per cent in comparison to 2008 — a year normally referenced by the Williams Lake RCMP as a higher bench mark for crime.
“That’s an absolutely astounding high number,” MacDonald said, noting during the last few months some of the offenders have been identified and incarcerated.
“Month over month we’ve experienced a decrease in theft of vehicles and did not have a single vehicle stolen in April. The decrease is a reflection of who is in jail.”
Police had success arresting people responsible for theft from vehicles and break and enters to businesses also decreased with only two reported calls so far in 2016.
“Sometimes those break and enters end up being related to criminals coming here from out of town,” MacDonald said.
A low number of sexual assaults have been reported so far in 2016 — three in January, zero in February, two in March and one in April.
MacDonald cautioned the statistics are often a double-edged sword because many sexual assaults are not reported to police.
If the numbers of sexual assaults reported increase, the police view that as a positive thing because it means they are engaging the public’s trust to report them.
Showing a map highlighting calls for service, MacDonald said he was surprised to see the highest density of calls was within a 500-metre radius around the RCMP station.
Five major incidents result in outside police aid
Five serious incidents in 2016 resulted in the Williams Lake RCMP receiving help from other policing agencies.
“We got a ton of assistance from North District RCMP in Prince George who sent a team of 10 plainclothes investigators who were all working to deal with those incidents,” MacDonald said. “They were responsible for forwarding charges and putting people in custody that were responsible for some serious events.”
Additionally, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit has been in Williams Lake five times this year for various initiatives, usually in the aftermath of one of the serious events.
“They gave me the ability to regroup and allow my members to get a little bit of sleep, because many of them were working 22 hours straight,” MacDonald said. “As well the CFSEU brings a specific support skill set that we don’t have available locally. They are full time gang enforcement police, primarily operating in the Lower Mainland. It’s something they are familiar with and good at.”
Community impact statements
Coun. Scott Nelson asked MacDonald how important it would be for the community to provide judges with a community impact statement after someone is arrested.
“I think it’s often helpful for a judge to hear that,” MacDonald said. “I think community impact statements are a great idea and would recommend you pursue doing them.”
April 25’s early morning house shooting on Western Avenue and subsequent lockdown seriously impacted the town, MacDonald said, noting there were daycares, schools and businesses closed as a result.
Lately the RCMP have received support from Crown Counsel and judges when they have asked that conditions be placed on serious crime offenders, MacDonald added.
“To disrupt that criminal culture they are a part of, we have asked that they not be allowed to be back in Williams Lake.”
MacDonald said one offender was released on conditions he not be allowed north of Cache Creek, but reside in Abbotsford with family so he can be monitored regularly down there.
Another offender was relocated south of Williams Lake.
The RCMP will explore similar conditions for other offenders, he added.
Transitional housing needed
There is a significant need for transitional housing in Williams Lake, MacDonald said. Between 2013 and 2016, 3,900 people who were arrested probably would have qualified for transitional housing if it was available.
“A typical arrest would be 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night in February and we are arresting someone so they don’t freeze to death,” he said.
Transitional housing is an initiative MacDonald and community safety co-ordinator Dave Dickson are pursuing with the Salvation Army.