Property crime has drastically decreased this year in Hope and Boston Bar, but this is to be expected with so many people sticking so close to home during the COVID-19 pandemic said Staff Sergeant Karol Rehdner.
Property crime saw decreases ranging from nine to 46 per cent compared to 2019 in the area, mirroring a trend across the Upper Fraser Valley region according to statistics presented at a Nov. 23 council meeting. Rehdner cautioned percentage changes should be taken with a large heaping of salt, as a change in a few files can shift percentages dramatically.
Break and enters at residences (from 33 to date in 2019 to 12 to date in 2020*) and businesses (70 in 2019, 38 in 2020) saw the largest reductions of all property crime types. “I know that is a COVID effect,” Rehdner said, adding that people who have prevalence to crime are not out during the pandemic.
And the calls associated with the local vulnerable population, which often take up a lot of policing time, were down.
Calls for domestic violence have decreased, from 113 calls in 2019 to 81 this year to date. Yet sex offences are up from 15 in 2019 to 21 in 2020. This is a category that includes but is not limited to “sexual assault, sexual interference, child pornography, indecency, publication of intimate image” Rehdner confirmed. “There is no one response that will provide a fulsome explanation” as to why these numbers are up, Rehdner noted in an email. “The courage of the victim to come forward regarding a life altering experience cannot be quantified but is a core factor,” he added.
While the statistics always fluctuate with calls related to controlled drugs and substances, proactive policing led to an increase in calls related to trafficking from nine in 2019 to 17 this year to date. “We recently executed a search warrant not too far from city hall…that is a win for us,” Rehdner said.
Policing during COVID-19 will continue as it has been over the summer months, with officers out and about and the detachment remaining open. And while the RCMP are now involved in enforcing public health orders such as the movement of people through Hope or coming from outside the country, something entirely new to the force Rehdner said, there have been minimal calls of this type.
There were some calls during the summer regarding people gathering at Kawkawa Lake and some odd calls regarding a location of worship and a local pub this past weekend. The focus for the RCMP, Rehdner said, is on education rather than enforcement.
While the Hope detachment was closed for eight weeks, there have been no illnesses related to COVID-19 Rehdner said.
Street checks, also referred to as carding, has been a “cornerstone of proactive policing” Rehdner said. Decisions by the Supreme Court on this practice has resulted in the curtailment of this practice as the court decisions determined it represents a “bias in policing, targeting certain segments of the population” he said.
“Instead of just being able to speak to somebody at random in a park, we now had to have articulable cause to speak to that person,” Rehdner said. “There needed to be either a breach of the law, be it municipal, provincial, and/or federal, for us to engage in a conversation with an individual” and this is reflected in the statistics. This does not affect the curfew checks that local RCMP do, for people who are under court-ordered conditions.
In 2019, 190 curfew checks were performed and so far this year 25 such checks have been peformed. These numbers are down primarily due to health and safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We remain cognizant of the individuals that are under current court conditions and do remain engaged with them insofar as ensuring that they are following the current court conditions that have been imposed,” Rehdner stated via email.
There has also been a drastic reduction in prisoner counts in the local detachment, from 163 prisoners logged in 2019 to 83 to date in 2020. “That has been a focus all across the country…in not wanting to keep people in custody. I know the courts have worked very hard at not keeping people in custody and really questioning, in many cases, the validity or the necessity of having somebody remanded into custody for a bail hearing, so we have seen a diminishment,” Rehdner said.
Having fewer prisoners doesn’t mean more crimes are being committed, as those who are released are justified to be let go and are released on conditions such as a curfew Rehdner said.
In response to a question from councillor Scott Medlock, Rehdner said there is a “good level of policing within the community” despite officers having had to manage more calls for service on local highways as well as having to do transports to Chilliwack and back for court during COVID times. “To say that there is a necessity for more bodies, I could say yes,” Rehdner said. “But then when the pandemic ends and the situation changes, then we probably go back to where it is that we were before where I believe we had a suitable level.”
“The province as a whole has stagnated in regards to their support for policing across the province,” Rehdner added, and Hope hasn’t seen an increase in eight years.
Rehdner will be retiring at the end of this year, handing over the reins to incoming Staff Sgt. Travis De Coene.
*All statistics referenced in this report are comparisons between January to October 2019 to the same period in 2020.
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