The success of the RCMP’s role in dealing with mental health issues and an increase in petty thefts were topics of discussion at Cranbrook city council as S/Sgt. Hector Lee delivered a report on the third-quarter crime stats.
Police officers dealing with people who have mental health issues has significantly decreased due to the work by Cst. Erin Stevenson, the local RCMP’s Mental Health Liaison officer.
In the quarter, RCMP has received 86 mental health calls as opposed to 131 calls in Q3 last year. From a year-to-date standpoint, the RCMP have dealt with 305 mental health calls as opposed to 359 at this time last year.
“It’s always nice to see those numbers down because it means we’ve created some awareness out there,” said S/Sgt. Lee. “We’re not getting the calls for service, people are understanding and perhaps we’ll have other agencies and organizations that will be able to take on those kind of roles to help out, because it’s not necessarily a police role all the time.
“In fact, very few times it’s a police issue, as far as crime goes, but we’re the only ones left to call sometimes, after hours.”
It’s been just over a year since Cst. Erin Stevenson was brought on board as the mental health liaison officer, a role that is more prevalent in major urban areas, but is having a positive impact in Cranbrook.
Apprehensions under the Mental Heath Act have fallen dramatically as well, said S/Sgt. Lee.
“At this time last year we had apprehended 113 individuals under the Mental Health Act,” Lee told council. “I think, because of the work that Erin’s been able to do in bringing together agencies and finding other ways to deal with people with mental health issues, that number has come down to 67.”
Overall, calls for service in the quarter, both within the city and rural areas, are up by five per cent, while year-to-date calls are up nine per cent.
Person offences, such as assaults, sexual assaults, assault with a weapon, robbery, threats, and criminal harassment are down by 17 per cent in the quarter, but up by three per cent year-to-date from last year.
S/Sgt Lee took a harder look into the numbers, which included 12 reported sexual assaults this year as opposed to three last year.
“I delved a bit into this category here and looked at our common assaults and our domestic assaults,” he said. “Our assaults and domestics have actually come down, compared to last year. Sex assaults have gone up and a lot of it has to do with this new protocol — third party reporting.”
What that means is that a victim of a sexual assault can report the incident to a third party without having to speak directly to police about it and allows RCMP to track the numbers. The drawback is that RCMP cannot investigate a specific incident unless the victim speaks directly with police.
“This is a way for them to report the offence, at least bring it to someone’s attention,” said S/Sgt. Lee. “We’re hoping, somewhere down the road that that person would come back and feel comfortable enough to talk to us.”
Property related offences, such as break and enter, thefts, and mischief to property, spiked up by 31 per cent over the Q3, while also rising by 21 per cent year-to-date from this time last year.
Most of that increase can be attributed to thefts and thefts from a vehicle, said S/Sgt. Lee.
“I can tell you that most of those actually happened in August,” he said. “90 of those thefts were theft from a motor vehicle, which was the big contributor to this, there are 44 shoplifters, that takes up the bulk of that total of 199.
“Of those 90 thefts from a vehicle, 50 of them happened in August and that’s right when our prolific offenders come out of jail.”
Other criminal code offences such as causing a disturbance, bail violations, firearms offences, public mischief and obstructing a peace officer, saw a spike in percentages with an increase in 28 per cent over the quarter and 18 per cent year-to-date from last year.
S/Sgt. Lee zeroed in on bail violations, which were up by 59 per cent over last year, however, he described that as positive work by his officers.
“The reason why that number is significant is that’s actually proactive work by our officers,” he said. “That’s not reported offences, these are offences that actually picked up on by our police officers in charges. That means they are out there and actively looking and pursuing people that are breaching their bail violations.”
Drug files are down by 27 per cent year-to-date, while the drug file clearance rate is at 75 per cent.
“We have seized cocaine, we have seized methamphetamines, we have seized some suspected fentanyl,” S/Sgt. Lee said. “Luckily, we are not looking at epidemic proportions like they do in the bigger centres. We’re trying to keep an eye on it. Our Crime Reduction Unit was tied up this year helping out with the homicide and some of the major investigations we had.”
Motor vehicle accidents are down, in total, by eight per cent, while progress is also being made with decreasing alcohol-involved accidents, which are down by 56 per cent.