With crime stats on a downward trend, Salmon Arm RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Keane wants to invest more police time on social issues.
Reporting to city council on crime stats for 2013, Keane said police have made significant gains in the past few years in reducing overall crime, and that the overall rate last year was down by eight per cent. He said this builds on previous reductions of 24 per cent in the past three years and 36 in the past five, and that police initiatives that contributed to these decreases will continue.
“Now that the hard work is done, I believe it’s time for the detachment to focus more greatly on social development matters,” Keane continued. “Such matters work to address the root causes of crimes so that people do not feel compelled to commit these crimes. It’s a pro-active and holistic approach that requires a co-ordinated, sustained and evaluative effort of a range of community partners.”
Keane explained that historically, social concerns related to youth or seniors have not been a specific focus of police, but this changed locally with addition of Const. Yvonne Dibblee who, since late 2012 has served as the detachment’s municipal traffic/community policing officer. Keane said Dibblee will be retiring in April, and that he didn’t want to lose her.
“Her efforts mirror the direction that I believe the detachment should be going,” said Keane. “I anticipate there will be a time when I approach council to request the addition of a full-time community policing person… but that’s not today. I am conscious of the dollar amount policing costs the city.”
However, Keane added Dibblee has agreed to participate in the detachment’s reserve constable program, and will work on a part-time basis at a cost of $25,000 for the year. This, he added, will be funded under the existing police budget.
Along the line of social issues, Coun. Debbie Cannon asked the sergeant what his feelings are on the impact the Mandella Project has had on the community. The referral program, which aims to help youth at risk of substance abuse, involvement in criminal activity or exclusion from education, may be cut as its funding is about to run out. Keane said the program has had a significant impact, noting the program has given youth a way to work through their issues in a positive way.
“It’s very difficult to measure… If that didn’t exist, would they be out there committing crimes? I don’t know,” said Keane. “But I’ll be able to tell in about five years, because then I’ll be able to see. And I’ll tell you right now, the rate of youth crime in Salmon Arm is comparatively low compared to other communities.”
In 2013, the detachment completed 7,190 calls for service, stopped 3,468 vehicles, arrested and housed 625 prisoners and has 134 investigations in the cue.