Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Reduced numbers try to hold the line on crime

With one police officer for every 538 Rupertites, the local detachment of the RCMP with its 28 members, is currently operating at below the normal staffing requirements and lower than the average ratio in many other regions of the province.

Across BC the number of municipal and federal (RCMP) officers on duty has increased, that hasn't been the case in Prince Rupert which reduced its complement over the last year and a half.

While the staffing reductions which took place back in 2006 are considered a temporary reduction, a return to the full complement of 36 is not expected to be complete until 2010, three years from now.

As for crime it seems that in some instances the streets are getting a little meaner out there.

The current rate of reported crime in Prince Rupert stands at around 200 crimes per thousand people, a level that it has been at for roughly the last five years. Though the number of Criminal Code offences in 2005 were higher than the number from 10 years prior. While violent crimes increased from 2004 to 2005 as did sexual assaults, though the numbers for non sexual assaults increased only slightly and in fact have dropped over the last few years.

Property crimes seem to be on the decline from ten years ago, though there has been a spike in property offences over the course of the last reporting period. With an increase from 780 in 2004 to 900 in 2005, though they are dramatically reduced from 1996 when 1,476 crimes were reported.

A similar story exists in break and enters which rose from 158 in 2004 to 199 in 2005, but are still down by a significant number from the 368 reported in 1996

The Daily News featured all the number crunching on the front page of Wednesday's paper as well as providing an update on the plans to relaunch the Citizens on Patrol program in the city to help keep some extra eyes and ears on the streets of Rupert.

By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Pages one and three

The province of British Columbia can breathe a little easier knowing that the crime rate last year was one of the lowest reported in the last 30 years and locally too crime has remained level, despite a reduced number of officers.

The most recent statistics on crime in B.C. show an overall 5 per cent decline in crime in 2006 compared to 2005. With the provincial average now at 113.6 crimes per 1,000 people, this continues an annual 5 per cent declining crime rate trend that the province previously experienced between the years of 2004 and 2005.

According the British Columbia 2006 Crime Report released by the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General's Policing and Community Service Branch, the crime rate in B.C. decreased steadily through the 1990s to a low of 117 reported in 1999, but increased a total of 10 per cent over the following five years to a high of 125.4 in 2004. The last two years have seen a substantial decrease in the province, which historically has some of the highest crime rates for a Canadian province.

Although the numbers of both federal and provincial RCMP members have increased in B.C., the number of police in Prince Rupert has not followed suit.

The total RCMP Federal Force in B.C. increased from 848 in 2004 to 872 in 2005, and the total RCMP Provincial Force increased from 1,753 in 2004 to 2,047 in 2005.

However, the Prince Rupert detachment has actually decreased from the 36 members it held in 1996, to only 28 members as of January 2006. This means based on 2005 population figures, there's only one officer per 538 Rupertites, which is substantially fewer officers than the provincial requirement.

"The caseload here would actually be higher [than reported] because our numbers are lower," said Sergeant Bob Shedden of the Prince Rupert RCMP.

"There should be 36 but there's only been 28 for the last year-and-a-half. We're going to slowly start climbing back up to that 36, and by 2010 we'll be back up, so it's just a temporary thing."

Prince Rupert's crime rate hasn't changed much between 2002 and 2006, hovering right around the 200 crimes per thousand people mark during those five years.

However, even though the population has decreased from 17,397 in 1996 to 14,974 in 2006, the number of Criminal Code offences in 2005 were higher than the number from 10 years prior. Similarly, from 1996 to 2005 the annual crime rate increased by close to 50 crimes per thousand.

"It's hard to explain that, you'd think that if the population goes up the crime rate goes up, but that's not necessarily true," said Shedden. "There's all kinds of socio-economic things. If you're in a community where there's lots of employment, your crime rate may actually drop even though your population increases."

When looking at individual types of crime, numbers really do fluctuate. The number of violent crimes increased from 429 in 2004 to 451 in 2005, and the number of sexual offences increased from 30 to 44. The amount of non-sexual assaults increased slightly from 393 in 2004 to 395 in 2005, but is substantially decreased from the 459 in 2002.

While property crimes increased from 780 in 2004 to 900 in 2005, they've greatly decreased from the 1,476 reported in 1996. In a similar fashion, break and enter offences rose from 158 in 2004 to 199 in 2005, but are still down dramatically from the 368 reported in 1996.

Motor vehicle theft locally more than doubled from 15 in 2004 to 32 in 2005, and general thefts increased from 511 to 591. Thefts from within motor vehicles also increased in 2005 from the previous year by 93 cases, but decreased by almost 100 cases from the 290 reported in 1996.

"Our crime stats like property crimes are below the average of the province, but our persons crimes which are assaults and stuff are higher than average, so that's the gist," said Shedden. "We're starting to notice an increase with more activity in town."

By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Page one

In an effort to get Prince Rupert's Citizens On Patrol program back up and running, the RCMP is requesting that anyone interested in volunteering in the community gets in touch with the local detachment.

While Prince Rupert's overall crime rates have remained much the same during the last decade, the number of police officers in the city has fallen sharply, and the lack of manpower is something that some residents are concerned about.

The coming year will see local law enforcement target many of the long-standing priorities, but officers hope they will be getting even more public assistance.

"We're always doing drug enforcement, that's a goal because there are lateral crimes like property crimes that are related to drug issues," said Sergeant Bob Shedden on what the RCMP is hoping to accomplish in the coming year.

"We get concerned about the amount of vandalism, and we're doing some programs with the city, working to help with that.

"And the violent crimes are something we're worried about. Coming up with prevention for violence is more difficult, but it's something we're aware of, something we'd like to do something about through education and enforcement."

For those Prince Rupert residents interested in becoming a part of the solution by joining Citizens On Patrol, there will be a few requirements they'll be expected to meet before they can actively begin patrol.

"They would be 19 years of age or older, a resident of the Prince Rupert area or owner/operator of a business in the Prince Rupert area, be of good character, and pass the security screening," said Constable J. Starr.

"Also they would abide by the rules and regulations of the patrol. They are required to attend an interview, and be prepared to testify as a witness before court."

However, anyone with dreams of becoming an ad hoc police officer need not apply. The RCMP does not want citizens getting involved in the front line apprehension of criminals.

"We want them on the sidelines and out of harm's way, so we can do some more pro-active policing in that way," said Starr.
"Historically, there's been street walk, speed watches, night and day patrols, stuff like that."

There will also be 12 modulars that volunteers would have to go through to learn proper procedures, such as effective patrolling, how to take notes and communicate, how the stolen auto program works, and other details of that nature.

Those interested can find out more by contacting either Const. R Scarlett or Const. J Starr at 627-0700, or people can drop-in at the RCMP detachment.

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