Campbell River RCMP responded to more calls than ever in 2021, resulting in the force becoming more “reactive” than “proactive” according to the detachment’s commander.
Insp. Jeff Preston, Campbell River RCMP detachment commander, provided a review of the detachment’s operations in 2021, during the city’s Feb. 15 commitee of the whole meeting.
Last year was the detachment’s busiest year on record, said Preston. It responded to 17,588 files, representing a 4.8 per cent increase from 2020, and a 21 per cent increase from 2017. While the call increase downtown was on par with the rest of the city, there were 31 incidents of assaults with a weapon or assault causing bodily harm there, an 82 per cent increase, he said.
“A vast, vast majority of them were where the offender and the victim were known to each other, and in most cases the victim did not cooperate with the investigation,” he said. “Having said that, we did have one very serious incident where a citizen was minding her own business, just doing shopping, and was attacked by a complete stranger and stabbed multiple times.”
The detachment also encountered an increase in the number of assaults against officers, of which there were at least 21 incidents.
“In each of these incidents, there’s a high likelihood that the officers were going to get injured, and in some cases they did,” he said.
The amount of calls is expected to grow as the city does too — but that is not the only reason for the increase, said Preston.
The call volume in relation to social service providers for the city’s “marginalized” population now equates to the workload of 1.5 full-time officers, he said. Additionally, Campbell River RCMP are responding to more calls for service at local ‘big box’ stores, such as Walmart and Superstore, mostly in response to reports of alleged theft.
Of the detachment’s top 10 most frequent call types, only two directly relate to criminal activity, said Preston.
The most frequent type of calls are “well-being checks,” representing eight per cent of calls. These checks have increased by 60 per cent over the last two years. Because the person being responded to may turn violent, the RCMP is mandated to respond with two officers.
There has also been a 124 per cent increase in the number of missing people calls, which are time-consuming, he said. The top-five call locations for missing people are the city’s group homes as well as the housing facility at the former Rose Bowl restaurant.
“Every shift we have to have an officer try to locate that individual regardless of what type of call it is, and when I say that, we do frequently get habitual runaways, habitual missing persons,” he said.
“But legally, we are required to make every effort possible to try and locate them, and the reason for this is most of those individuals are living very high-risk lifestyles, and we don’t want to see what happened (with) (Robert) Pickton happen ever again.”
With the province and courts demanding more transparency and accountability, police are also spending more time investigating, he said.
“Things that used to take a few minutes to investigate can now take hours, and in some cases, things that used to take hours can take days,” he said.
As a result of these trends, Campbell River RCMP is becoming “a reactive police force, instead of a proactive one,” said Preston. “And that’s not something I would like to see continue.”
Reaching the RCMP staffing level in Campbell River’s 2008 Crime Prevention Strategy — one officer for every 715 residents — would require the hiring of five additional officers, based on the city’s current population, he said.
While Campbell River RCMP has conducted undercover and surveillance projects to address drug trafficking in the city, it has encountered “hurdles,” including a recent court decision in which a charged individual was convicted but spared jail time or sentencing conditions, he said.
“This is the type of thing that we’re dealing with, when we spend hours and hours investigating, and if they’re right back on the street, I know it’s very concerning for everybody in the room, because I’m the first one to get the phone call saying that person is drug trafficking; they haven’t stopped.”