It was a busy second quarter for the Cranbrook RCMP, which saw a jump in calls for service and property crime, said S/Sgt. Hector Lee in a report to city council.
S/Sgt. Lee said break and enters increased by 100 per cent from eight in 2016 to 16 this quarter, while other property related offences also increased, except for arsons.
S/Sgt. Lee admitted the rise in crime was likely due to a combination of crime groups passing through Cranbrook at a time when police resources were stretched thin dealing with a homicide in March as well as enforcing wildfire evacuation orders.
“We get certain groups that come through here, we get certain offenders released from custody,” said S/Sgt Lee. “Normally we try to be on top of it, but other things happen. Higher priority items or events happen and we lose track.
“As much as I’d like to say we can protect the city from that 24/7 all the time; I’d love to be able to do that, but when we do have a major investigation like the homicide, obviously that’s a higher priority.
Especially the one that we had, it was what we’d classify as a ‘whodunit’ type homicide. We were pretty fearful of people’s safety, so it was all hands on deck.”
The homicide was reported by police when a 73-year-old Cranbrook resident was found dead inside her home on March 29.
“We had [a suspect] identified really quickly; that was some really good work by local officers here that got that going and got it to the point where we didn’t have that fear, and that was the important thing,” S/Sgt. Lee said.
Person offences, such as assaults, sex assaults, assault with a weapon, robbery, threats and criminal harassment were also up by 10 per cent, both in the second quarter and in the year-to-date stats.
Lee reported a general increase in the clearance rate of non-traffic criminal code files, however, the clearance rate for drug files decreased by 24 per cent.
S/Sgt. Lee highlighted the good news of motor vehicle accidents, noting that incidents were down by five per cent within the city, while alcohol-involved MVAs were down by 56 per cent.
Immediate Roadside Prohibitions were down by 38 per cent, but Roadside Suspensions were up 113 per cent.
Another positive aspect of the report is the work being done by Cst. Erin Stevenson as the RCMP’s Mental Health liaison, who has been working in the position for the last year, S/Sgt. Lee said.
Police have received 229 calls that deal with a mental health aspect as opposed to 285 last year, he said.
“I think that’s certainly a win in my books,” S/Sgt. Lee said. “It certainly shows Cst. Erin Stevenson’s efforts in looking at different ways in trying to deal with the social problems we have.
“…There was lots of services available out there, it’s just they didn’t know about each other and Erin’s job in connecting and networking these services so that everyone is aware of each other certainly has influence.”
Enforcing evacuation orders and managing the wildfire situation out at Moyie was another challenging aspect to policing in the second quarter, S/Sgt. Lee said.
He said individual officers had to use their discretion when allowing people in and out of wildfire areas.
““We did make exceptions here and there, right or wrong, that was something that was done,” S/Sgt. Lee said. “You know, our officers have a heart and they’re trying to do the right thing and trying to help folks. Now I know there are rules in place when an Emergency Operations Plan is in place and normally we wouldn’t be doing things like that.
“Eventually, we got there and some people were able to get in and some people weren’t.”
In spite of what people may post on social media about any looting or thefts due to the wildfire evacuations, S/Sgt. Lee said the RCMP never received any reports of such activity.
Overall calls for service were relatively unchanged; second quarter calls within the city and rural areas were up by seven per cent, while year-to-date is up by five per cent.