With COVID-19 keeping people at home, Hope’s top police officer says the RCMP have been dealing with more calls to the detachment than usual.
The statistics for Hope and Boston Bar’s RCMP detachments were surprising said Staff Sergeant Karol Redhner. The police had anticipated a drop in calls and while they did see less property crime reported, 100 more calls overall came in to police in March.
The 516 calls in March is a 20 per cent increase compared to the monthly average over the past six months – 417.
A new type of call for the RCMP over the past month has been public health-related calls. These stemmed from the public health directives to social distance, bans on personal service businesses being open, bans on dine-in for restaurants and rules to quarantine after return home from abroad.
The stats do not show how many of these types of calls police received, Rehdner said, but they included calls about restaurants being in operation, people not keeping two metres away from one another and others not quarantining properly.
“It’s always about education and information,” Rehdner said about what police would do if they were tasked by public health to go out on one of these calls.
The police have since seen a drop in calls about restaurants, after the public health authorities visited 65 Hope businesses and found 100 per cent compliance.
So far, Rehdner said he hasn’t been made aware of anyone within the RCMP’s Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment area contravening the Quarantine Act “to the point where we become involved,” he said.
The RCMP announced Friday their officers will soon be enforcing mandatory quarantines for people newly arrived from abroad – this could include house checks and fines of of $750,000 and six months in prison for people who violate the order. For those found in wilfull or reckless contravention of the act could be fined up to $1-million and could face up to three years in prison.
The Hope and Boston Bar area saw three additional family violence-related calls in March. There were 11 calls in March, compared to the monthly average of eight calls.
“We saw a small increase of three files over the course of March,” Rehdner said, yet added he would need to look at mid-March to mid-April to see if measures against COVID-19 are resulting in a rise in these calls.
It is worth noting that many family violence-related incidents go unreported, so calls do not present a complete picture of how much family violence is ongoing.
When self-isolation was recommended for everyone in Canada, advocates warned of the possibility of increases to domestic violence and sexual violence against women and children. Statistics Canada data from 2018 shows that most intimate partner violence occurs in homes occupied by the accused and the survivor and women are 8 out of 10 times the survivor of the violence.
In communities including Victoria and Vernon police have said they’ve seen increases in these types of calls in March, meanwhile others such as Campbell River have said this is not the case in their community.
While property crimes are down, Rehdner said the RCMP are cognizant of the fact that several downtown businesses have shut their doors in response to the pandemic. “We look to increase our patrols through the business area downtown and elsewhere,” he said.
So far, no officers have become ill from COVID-19 – Rehdner noted it would be difficult for the detachment to manage if they had five or six officers off due to the virus.
Police work has to be done, Rehdner said, but police are quite used to social distancing. They call it ‘tactical positioning,’ meaning officers should maintain a distance from people unless they need to get closer. Officers also have eye protection, gloves as well as a half mask, which they make an assessment whether to use at the scene.