Trail city council had a lot of questions for Trail and Greater District RCMP Sergeant Mike Wicentowich at the Oct. 25 Governance and Operations Committee (GOC) meeting.
Wicentowich presented the 2021 Third Quarter Crime Statistics to council for the months of July, August, and September. The summer months are typically the busiest months of the year for policing, particularly with several police personnel off on leave.
“We are experiencing a fairly severe resource crunch,” Wicentowich told council. “Out of 22 police officers we have seven off for various medical reasons and two on what we call restricted duty.”
But, he added, the police force will get another officer soon and expects those on leave to be back to work over the next few months.
When compared to the 2020 Third Quarter Crime Statistics, assaults, sexual offences, drug investigations, domestic violence, motor vehicle collisions, impaired driving and motor vehicle infractions remain relatively the same.
However, theft from motor vehicles spiked from 21 to 47 incidents and theft of automobiles more than doubled going from five to 11.
Coun. Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson questioned Wicentowich on the downtown RCMP foot patrols and their frequency.
Wicentowich said that the patrols were reduced to weekly patrols due to the lack of resources.
However, they had engaged other emergency workers like fire chief Dan Derby, Trail bylaw officers, victims services and other downtown groups to monitor the area and call the police when necessary.
“With the homeless population downtown, it’s a continuous effort to maintain order and reduce the amount of calls, but it’s honestly here to stay,” said Wicentowich. “It’s not any one agency’s responsibility, but it’s going to be a persistent problem, and it’s a problem in every community.
“As our resources increase, I’m hoping to get other officers out there as well.”
Trail RCMP recommends the public lock their vehicles and homes, remove valuables and keys from their vehicles, and report suspicious activity to avoid becoming an easy victim of theft.
Coun. Carol Dobie shared her concerns about the increase in violence, pointing to the recent assault on a Glenmerry father and son, and the knife attack on two RCMP officers.
“I see those two incidents as quite an escalation as to what normally happens,” said Dobie. “I was very concerned with both those incidents.”
Wicentowich confirmed that the suspects were arrested but then released.
The RCMP officer explained that the court system rarely detains an accused person, who is presumed innocent before proven guilty, while awaiting their court date.
“Now, it’s very hard to keep people in custody,” he said. “But I’m hoping we get back to the point where violent offenders, after committing one act or two acts of violence that they stay in custody, but it’s not the way things are going right now.”
Wicentowich also warned against confrontation.
In the case of the Glenmerry father and son, after chasing down the two suspects, they were both pepper sprayed and the son assaulted with a blow to the head.
“As good as it would feel, we know that everybody has a fantasy of that working out in their favour, more often they get hurt.”
Wicentowich urged citizens to call the RCMP if they are the victim or witness to theft or other criminal activity.
GOC chair Coun. Sandy Santori, in turn, voiced his frustration with the system.
“I think our justice system is totally dysfunctional, and not in line with the reality of what’s happening in our community,” said Santori. “We talk about their civil rights, but it seems that our civil rights as law abiding citizens are not taken into account. People were frustrated before, they are starting to get angry, that’s why you are seeing people take the law into their own hands.”
Wicentowich again underscored the futility of vigilantism, and urged residents to refrain from engaging in confrontation.
“It’s not going to workout,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t defend yourself, it doesn’t mean you can’t use reasonable force, it doesn’t mean you can’t do a lot of things to protect yourself and your property or family. But it has to be proportional.
“When you’re talking about minor items being stolen, assaulting someone viciously is not going to hold mustard in court and you are going to get in a lot of trouble.”
Santori stressed that he was not encouraging vigilantism, but is concerned about the welfare of Trail citizens.
Wicentowich also reported that mental health related calls, alcohol/drug related calls, well-being checks, suspicious occurrences/vehicles/persons, and unspecified assistance accounted for 651 calls for service or 38 per cent of total incidents for the third quarter.
“These types of calls take up a considerable amount of police time and only sometimes involve criminal or regulatory offences,” added Wicentowich.
Overall, the total amount of calls for service for the 2021 third quarter totaled 1,677 compared to 1,694 in 2020, and 405 calls were criminal code related offences.