The Townsman sat down with S/Sgt Hector Lee and other local media to hear the reflections of the past year from the point of view of the RCMP.
The high turnover their office has experienced, particularly over the summer months, was something that caused substantial change. Eight of the members that joined the ranks of local law enforcement were new to Cranbrook, however some were not and already had ties to the area.
“That was kind of nice, there’s an invested interest already before they even get here,” Lee said. That also is a part of the positive relationship with the community the RCMP strives to maintain.
“It speaks to what level our community is at when it comes to, not just public safety, but how we treat each other in this area,” Lee said. “And it reinforces the necessity for there to be a connection between the police and the community that they look after.
“We enjoy a really good relationship with our community members here. And we do our best to try and stay involved in the communities and having officers that have some kind of a connection to this area certainly does help because you don’t need to convince them.”
Another way that community engagement was a cornerstone of 2017 for the RCMP was the numerous fundraisers that occurred, including Cops for Kids and Cram the Cruiser. Lee said that these, “show the level of generosity by the community members in this area.”
One of the major events in Cranbrook in 2017 was the homicide investigation that led to manslaughter charges being laid against Emmanuel Robert Murphy for the death of a 73-year-old woman who was found dead on March 29.
“We were able to resolve this within a year which is pretty unique for a lot of homicide investigations,” Lee said. He paid credit to help from Vancouver, Kelowna and major or serious crime investigators from the surrounding areas in the quick turnaround on this case.
“We got things solved fairly quickly and resolved fairly quickly in court, which was certainly a plus,” Lee continued. “Obviously a very tragic event, we never want that in our community but sometimes those things are out of our control.”
Lee said that the investigation was taxing on the detachment but pointed out that homicide investigations are taxing on any detachment, regardless of size. They front loaded the case in the interest of public safety, pooling their top resources together and honing in on the investigation to get it solved as quickly as possible, which can in some instances lead to an increase in crimes in other areas, because they are tied up with the major crime.
Another major milestone for the RCMP in 2017 was the unprecedented wildfire season, as they aided firefighting crews with security and helping people evacuate. As well as the fact that no major structures were lost to the fires, Lee added:
“I think overall we were very unfortunate, we were successful in doing what needed to be done which was securing property there were no reports of any break and enters, any property loss, that kind of thing, which was pretty significant for us.”
Some significant drug busts were made over the course of the year and Lee said that there has been an increase in the presence of the deadly drug fentanyl, which Lee said they anticipated as Cranbrook is not immune to it.
“We’re making the most of what we have as far as resources go to try and keep that under control,” Lee explained.
On the mental health front, Lee said there has been great progress made, not just for Mental Health Liaison Officer Cst. Erin Stevenson, but the community in general. RCMP reportedly saw a major decrease in the number of apprehensions that were made this year compared to years past, something Lee strongly attributed to the work of Cst. Stevenson.
“Stevenson has been doing along with the local agencies and just making sure that we’re all aware of each other and we’re all on the same page when we’re doing with folks that are dealing with these kinds of illnesses or disabilities.”
Moving into next year, one of the RCMP’s goals is do bring down the number of car accidents resulting from impaired driving. Lee said that the detachment is fairly aggressive in their enforcement actions and he believes the results of that are coming to fruition.
Similarly, another area the RCMP hopes to focus in on more in 2018 is the traffic in general, specifically the amount of aggressive driving that people report.
“We’ll continue to focus on the things that we have been in the last couple of years but we’re planning on being a little bit more aggressive on the traffic side as far as enforcement goes,” Lee said.
He explained that this is purely for the good of the community and not, as he put it, for the RCMP to be a “cash cow” for the government.
“We’re here to make sure that our city’s looked after and our area’s looked after and we don’t have those accidents and fatalities that can come with a lack of enforcement sometimes.”
Distracted driving is another thing they’d like to crack down on, and Lee said they want to work more with East Kootenay Traffic Services in the future, and Cranbrook is exploring the possibility of establishing an actual traffic unit.