Rise in crime discouraging, says Masset RCMP

  • Dec. 13, 2006 2:00 p.m.

Despite new efforts to deal with the root causes of crime, Masset RCMP have dealt with more drug offences, break and enters, and impaired drivers so far this year, says Sgt. Jim Vardy. In a presentation to Masset council Monday night (Dec. 11), Sgt. Vardy called the rising crime rate “discouraging news”. The total number of reportable crimes in the first nine months of 2006 was 1,327, he said, compared to 1,215 in the same period of 2005 – a 9-percent increase. “Our biggest increase has been in impaired driving, drug offences, and federal statutes,” he said. “Our drug offences are up quite a bit.” Some of the increase may be due to the fact that the detachment had an additional officer on staff this year, he said. However, the detachment has also received many more calls from residents this year. “We can feel it in the office,” he said. “Things are quite a bit busier.” Police recorded 36 drug offences during the first nine months this year, compared to 26 in the first nine months of 2005. The number of impaired drivers charged in the same period doubled this year, to 16 from 8 the year before. So far this year, there has been one fatal vehicle accident, which Sgt. Vardy said has been attributed to alcohol. The case will be going to court with charges of impaired driving causing death, he said, although the charges have not yet been laid. Sgt. Vardy said he is hoping there will be no more accidents, and will have officers conducting drinking and driving checks constantly throughout the holiday season. The number of domestic disputes rose sharply this year, another huge concern for the detachment, he said. Police have received 41 calls for domestic disputes so far this year and laid 26 charges. During all of 2005, police received 24 calls and laid 16 charges. Councillor Ed Woode asked if alcohol were a factor in the domestic dispute calls, to which Sgt. Vardy replied that alcohol is a factor in almost everything the Masset detachment deals with. “It’s the root cause,” he said, adding that drugs are a bit of a problem in the community, but do not fuel nearly as much destructive behaviour as alcohol does. “We don’t often have a domestic call if two people are sitting around smoking a joint… if they’re sitting there with a bottle of whiskey, it’s a different story.” Sgt. Vardy said alcohol abuse is extremely difficult to address, but suggested a couple of small actions the community could take. People are generally well-behaved in the local bars but there are often violent incidents when they get outside after drinking. The corner of Main Street and Collison Avenue is a particular trouble spot, and he suggested that council install a bright light there. “People hate being in the light,” he said, adding that some 7-11 stores on the mainland have scared off crowds in their parking lots by piping opera music outside. Sgt. Vardy said he’s also concerned that some of the bars are advertising drink specials on the local community cable channel, MHTV. He said the healthy communities committee which he has been working with may ask MHTV not to run this kind of advertising. Another issue for the community is the lack of victim assistance, and Sgt. Vardy said he has been working to get more service in this area. There is a victim assistance worker on the islands but she works out of Queen Charlotte and only comes to Masset three days a month. Sgt. Vardy crunched some numbers and discovered that the Masset detachment has more than three times as many calls as Queen Charlotte for crimes involving victims (domestic disputes, assaults, mental health calls, family relation calls and mischief). After looking at the statistics prepared by Sgt. Vardy, the Solicitor General’s office sent up a representative to check out the situation, and it now appears that Masset may get its own victims services worker, Sgt. Vardy told council. Mayor Barry Pages agreed that a full victim services program is extremely important. In a small community, people can also be quite traumatized by break and enters, he added. “That’s the thing I always hear from the general public, is the B and Es,” he said. “That’s what really affects people.” There are a couple of repeat offenders in the community who are constantly appearing in court on break and enter charges, Sgt. Vardy said, and it appears another wave of B and Es is hitting the community right now. The court system doesn’t seem to be able to deal effectively with these types of offenders, he said, adding that it might help if community members, especially elders, started attending court regularly. The younger people have a lot of respect for the elders and it might make a difference to have them there during court sessions. On a positive note, Sgt. Vardy said a healthy communities committee has been up and running since June and is working hard to address the root causes of crime. They have decided to focus on four areas: substance abuse, violence, youth programs and respect. Right now, the committee is organizing a sailpast on Dec. 23, which will see vessels decked with lights sailing out of the harbour and up the inlet to Old Massett and back. The youth group will be holding a beach bonfire in Old Massett for the spectators. Also, four detachment members feel Masset is such a great community that they have asked to stay here beyond their two-year limit, and all four extensions have been approved. Sgt. Vardy, Cpl. Bob Isaacs, Const. Chris Rioux and Const. Alfy Vince will all be staying at least another year, he said. As well, the detachment will be getting a new member in February from the depot in Regina. She will do her field training here and will than replace a transferring member in July. The new member is in her early 20s and comes from Slave Lake, Alberta, Sgt. Vardy said. Sgt. Vardy told council he will be back in February to give them a full report on crime stats for 2006. Mr. Pages thanked him for his presentation.

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