Sgt. Chris Dodds (left), and S/Sgt. Hector Lee (right) spoke about the challenges and opportunities for policing in Cranbrook during a recent interview with local media.

Sgt. Chris Dodds (left), and S/Sgt. Hector Lee (right) spoke about the challenges and opportunities for policing in Cranbrook during a recent interview with local media.

Year in Review: RCMP put a dent in property crime, traffic enforcement

Detatchment also touts the ongoing success of a Mental Health Liaison officer

It was a busy year for the Cranbrook RCMP, as local members continue to tackle property crime, traffic enforcement and a late change at the top of the command structure.

S/Sgt. Hector Lee, who worked his last day in Cranbrook just before Christmas, is heading off to Kelowna in January to serve in an advisory position to detachments in the northern part of the Southeast District.

However, local members will continue to build on efforts to reduce property crime and impaired driving, said Lee.

“This past year, 2018 overall, we were able to bring our property crime stats down,” he said. “Our crime reduction unit, which is comprised of a member from Cranbrook and a member from Kimberley, have done some excellent work jumping on top of these things when they do start happening.”

Sgt. Chris Dodds and Sgt. Barry Graham will lead the local RCMP, made up of 26 municipal officers and seven under provincial jurisdiction, until a new detachment commander is named in the new year.

In addition to property crime, police are also pushing back against groups from major urban centres from the east and the west who try to set up shop in the hard drug trade, such as heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and crystal meth.

“There are multiple groups coming from out of town that try to start up shop here and we were able to jump on things early and we were able to seize a significant amount of drugs and money and weapons,” Lee said.

Lee says there are informal talks in the works about creating a regional joint task force with other East Kootenay RCMP detachments to collectively share policing resources and information against the drug trade.

Cranbrook RCMP also saw a jump in their impaired driving statistics, said Lee. That can be interpreted two ways — either impaired driving is up as a whole, or police are having more success taking impaired drivers off the road.

“Our impaired driving statistics — there’s been a ton of enforcement,” Lee said. “I think from our third quarter report, our impaired driving was up 62 per cent from the year previous. So there’s a lot of enforcement, a lot of proactive involvement and I think we can attribute that to our new traffic section.”

That new traffic section is being led by Cpl. Rod Hrehirchuk, who has partnered with the East Kootenay Traffic Services to step up police visibility on municipal traffic enforcement.

One of the detachment’s biggest accomplishments this past year is the continued success of a Mental Health Liaison — an RCMP officer who has built a network for clients to get help they need if police respond to a call for service that has a mental health component.

Cst. Erin Stevenson has been working in the role since October 2016, which has helped reduce police apprehensions during mental health calls by an average of 35 per cent, as reported by Sgt. Dodds during a presentation to council on Q3 crime statistics.

“It’s been extremely successful,” said Dodds. “We’re seeing reductions in our calls for service for mental health related incidences and it’s also reducing our time we’re spending at the hospital with our clients that we’re trying to get help for, which has been really positive.”

The challenge, going forward, is creating a full-time position for the Mental Health Liaison, which remains at the pilot stage, but that’s a conversation that has to happen between the new detachment commander and city staff, according to Dodds.

“I think it’s pretty clear that our mental health liaison program has had a really huge affect on this community,” added Lee, “and not just with the perception of police officers and dealing with people who have mental health issues, but also bringing together other agencies that have that common goal in mind in assisting these folks who need the help.”

The legalization of marijuana was one of the top stories of the year, but both Dodds and Lee say that policing resources aren’t under any undue strain because of it.

Primary enforcement will be ensuring drivers aren’t behind the wheel while also focusing on illegal marijuana production. Police are also bringing a message of making the right choices into schools to make sure cannabis isn’t being used by youth.

“That’s where we want to make sure, with the legalization of the substance, that it’s staying out of the schools and staying away from youth and we’re not allowing that to slip by us,” Dodds said.