RCMP annual report shows detachment issues, successes

Staffing shortages, travelling criminals were concerns in 2017

A mere 12 people in Grand Forks were responsible for nearly 400 RCMP calls last year: this was among the information presented by Grand Forks RCMP Sgt. Jim Fenske at the detachment’s annual report to city council on Monday morning.

Crime Statistics for 2017

Overall criminal offences were up seven per cent over 2016, Fenske said, while the number of overall calls for service was up 12 per cent. Property crime specifically was up 16 per cent.

Fenske said it was largely attributable to an increase in travelling criminals along the Highway 3 corridor, citing a similar increase seen by other Highway 3 detachments. Fenske also said that RCMP encouraged business owners to press charges rather than “temporarily fix[ing] the problem” when there were disturbances issues at businesses.

The 12 most “prolific” offenders in the detachment area accounted for 14 per cent of all files by the detachment in 2017, over 380 calls. These are known links and does not include files in which RCMP suspect prolific offenders are linked. In the last year, almost all of these offenders spent time in jail and all were arrested, most on multiple occasions. Three of the 12 are currently incarcerated, many are on release conditions and having pending charges, and one is not allowed in Grand Forks for the next 2.5 years, the report detailed.

Total calls for service in 2017 were 3,533, up from 3,000 in 2016. Of those over 700 were non-criminal in nature – animals and traffic calls, as well as false alarms or abandoned 911 calls.

Violent crime in the community is down 16 per cent, he said, with a total of 31 calls this year. However, many of those were assaults on police officers.

“I had four members injured last year, luckily most are back to work, but we had a big spike in assaults on police, that was a travelling criminal element,” he said. “We’re very engaged in the issue and managing that and getting those employees back to work.”

The RCMP also recorded an increase in the number of responses to human death. There were 31 this year, an increase over 14 from 2016. Fenske said seven of those are due to overdoses.

While a total of 179 files dealt with the Mental Health Act in 2017 (up from 161 in 2016), Fenske said that figure only accounts for cases where mental health is the primary component. He estimated that 20 per cent of all files have some mental health component.

Naloxone (commonly known as Narcan) data is not available from BC Ambulance, but Fenske said his detachment members administered the drug three times in cases of overdose. RCMP are not necessarily called for suspected overdose calls, he added.

Detachment Staffing Issues

RCMP Sgt. Jim Fenske said in his presentation that the detachment operated at what was at times a “severe” resource shortage throughout 2017 and that due to the transfer of two officers in 2016, the detachment is now “fairly junior,” though the officers are performing well and are assets to the detachment.

Fenske also announced that he will be leaving for a northern posting in the near future, and his replacement will be staffed through a promotion process — a process that could take up to nine months, he said.

“My replacement will be promotion, there was no lateral interest, promotion is six to nine months to come to fruition, so it will be close to winter before my replacement is here,” he said. The position will be filled in an acting capacity with support from the regional detachment.

Because of the regional model of RCMP in the Kootenays, the Grand Forks detachment falls under the Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment. Fenske said resource sharing in the regional detachment is key, as officers are moved in and out to assist with major events in the area – notably CannaFest and Shambhala, as well as the Nakusp Music Festival.

Grand Forks RCMP will not be receiving an extra member in the near future, Fenske said; despite having prepared a business case study for the member, requests across British Columbia for a total of 130 extra members were denied. Fenske said the total cost of adding a detachment member is $249,000. That business case study will remain on file, should another opportunity to receive a member arise, he said.

Police resources were “diminished” 20 to 50 per cent this year, largely due to the fire deployments and provincial state of emergency for much of the summer. That alone was 370 hours of policing lost, Fenske added.

“It’s just a number, but think about an hour of police work, being proactive, being out there,” he said.

The detachment was supported heavily by reserve constables this year, which was retired members who come back to work. Fenske said they were a key resource for the detachment this year.

Detachment Equipment

Fenske said the detachment was successful in obtaining more equipment this year. An additional police vehicle was added to the fleet to “minimize the inefficiency of two members being in a vehicle because we are short vehicles,” Fenske said.

Two UTVs were also added, giving officers far more mobility in policing parks and special events.

Upgrades to the detachment boat at Christina Lake were also done. Due to new safety regulations for the detachment, a new fume hood and ion scanner were purchased, at a cost of $75,000; that cost was paid entirely by the province as the Grand Forks detachment is provincially funded.

Planning for 2018

Prolific offenders and property crime continue to be two detachment priorities for the coming year, Fenske said, focusing specifically on crime reduction.

“The lack of easily accessible services for addictions, substance abuse and mental health treatment remains a concern in our communities,” Fenske wrote in his report. “In many cases we see people dealt with by the criminal justice system that would be more appropriately dealt with by the health system.”

The detachment will be continuing efforts to “identify and prosecute” methamphetamine and fentanyl dealers; monitor and enforce bail, probation and conditional sentence orders and police prolific and problematic offenders.

Fenske also highlighted the detachment’s programs and initiatives, like working with Block Watch, restorative justice, and education in schools.

CannaFest

Fenske said the detachment is currently looking at a cost recovery process for policing CannaFest. The event has grown substantially since 2015, and this year he estimated the event will cost $11,000 to police. The detachment gets extra help with policing the event through the regional detachment. CannaFest is not linked to any specific increase in crime, Fenske said, though officers did issue 50 liquor violation tickets last year to send a strong message.

RCMP at Christina Lake

Again this year Fenske reported that a reserve constable was deployed at Christina Lake, with funding from the RDKB. The program was a success, Fenske said, with over 121 vessel checks and infractions recorded on the water, and 10 charges issued. There was a minimal change in criminal activity at Christina Lake, and the reserve constable (Const. Chris Cotrrill) will be returning next summer.

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