The RCMP is planning to launch a new crime reduction strategy in Hope and Boston Bar this fall.
The initiative aims to improve communication between police and local social service agencies to help address the root causes of crime in the community.
“From the causation effect, we as police can only control certain amounts of things that happen and we’re usually there to pick up the pieces when things go wrong,” said Staff Sgt. Suki Manj. “We’ve found that there are people who commit crime, but their intention isn’t to be a criminal – it’s to live. We give them a home for a night and then they’re out on the streets again. Instead of being charged and putting them through the system, they can get the help they require.”
The program will start by establishing a care team for a few individuals meeting specific criteria, with the goal of increasing the numbers over time. These people will be identified as social chronic offenders in the police database with a 24-hour contact number for the care group in the community. Manj said the majority of people police see on a regular basis are lacking job skills and suffer from mental illness, addiction and homelessness.
“A social chronic offender doesn’t mean we won’t charge that person, it just means we will attempt to get to the underlying problem and help assist them get out of that,” he said. “If it means not charging on a victimless crime, then we’ll try and do it without compounding the problem and having them to go to court for something they really didn’t intend to do.”
A victimless crime could be a vagrant sleeping in a ATM vestibule or an individual causing a public disturbance due to intoxication, Manj added.
The new initiative is being modelled after successful programs in the United Kingdom. It is also linked to the department’s prolific offender program, which assigns a police officer to monitor the activities of people with lengthly criminal records. These people are flagged in the police database and given an opportunity to change their lifestyle through a partnership with community resources.