By Alex Rinfret–RCMP Sgt. Jim Vardy brought some good news to Masset council members Monday night: crime reported to the detachment office in 2005 decreased significantly compared to the previous year, as did the number of calls for service.
Sgt. Vardy came armed with a report full of statistics about policing in the past year, and outlined some of the most interesting trends. There were 1,640 crimes reported to the detachment in 2005, down 17-percent from the 1,970 reported in 2004.
The detachment – which covers all of Graham Island north of the Tlell River bridge – received 2,176 calls for service this past year, also down 17-percent from the previous year’s 2,616 calls. About two-thirds of the calls the detachment receives come from within the village of Masset boundaries.
Sgt. Vardy said the reduction in crime is partly due to a change in focus at the detachment, with officers working more on what he called “value-added offences” such as liquor offences, which if not kept in check can lead to criminal offences.
He also commented that drug use is prevalent in the area and the detachment has been working on drug education and targeted enforcement on this issue.
Certain crimes did increase in 2005, with assaults, break and enters, thefts and fraud all up slightly. Drug offences were down, with no heroin incidents (compared to one in 2004), eight cases of cocaine trafficking (compared to 21), and 14 cases of marijuana possession (compared to 16).
Sgt. Vardy noted that 18 people were charged with impaired driving in the past year, more than double the seven charged in 2004, reflecting a greater emphasis on vehicle enforcement.
The detachment’s focus for 2006, Sgt. Vardy said, is to work with the public to develop a community policing plan. Right now he is setting up a committee to work on the planning process, and he asked council to consider sending a representative, and to let other people in the village know about the opportunity. The community plan is extremely important and will form the cornerstone of the detachment’s focus in the future, he said.
“We are not going to solve the drug problems of this town without the help of the community,” he told council. “We are not going to solve the issues of any town in BC or Canada unless we have the help of the community.”
Sgt. Vardy also requested the use of a village facility at no charge for the fledgling restorative justice process, which council agreed to make available.
Council members had an extensive discussion about whether it would help deter crime if the names of people charged with offenses were published in the Observer.
Councillor Brent Buell was all in favour of the idea, saying it informs community members about who is responsible for crime and could help dispel rumours.
“In my mind, we’re missing the boat by not naming people who are charged,” he said. “Let’s start naming the people who are doing things in our community we do not approve of.”
Sgt. Vardy said it would take up police time to release the names of people who have been charged (the charging is done in Prince Rupert, often weeks or months after the actual incident), and pointed out that people can be charged but not convicted once their case goes through the court system.
Court is open to the public and convictions and sentences are available to the public, he pointed out.
Council also discussed crystal meth. The provincial government is giving every community in the province $10,000 to fight crystal meth, mayor Barry Pages said. Masset may be able to combine its funding with Port Clements and Old Massett for a joint project, but he asked Sgt. Vardy for his opinion on the best way to spend that chunk of money.
Sgt. Vardy replied that his top priority would be treatment for addicts, saying that crystal meth is so destructive that it is vital to get help for addicts right away. One council member said the cost of treatment is about $3,000, so 10 people could be treated if the three communities pooled their funding.
Mr. Pages said he didn’t know whether treatment qualified for the provincial funding, which comes with some strings attached, but said he would look into it.
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