False alarms chew up Vernon RCMP time

Insp. Gord Stewart estimates 90 per cent of alarm calls are false alarms

False alarms, abandoned 911 calls and traffic complaints occupy significant RCMP time, police said.

Insp. Gord Stewart, acting officer in charge of the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP, told City of Vernon council that their detachment received 1,244 alarm calls last year, many of which turned out to be false alarms.

“I would say in my experience, and again it’s anecdotal, but the vast majority of them, north of 90-95 per cent, would be false,” Stewart told council during his quarterly report at the May 14 meeting.

“I find it odd that an alarm company can use us as their runners, but they do that, and we respond.”

According to Stewart, the first false alarm call is free. Afterwards, it becomes accumulative in terms of potential fines.

“It seems there is a lot of time spent on them (false alarm calls),” said Coun. Catherine Lord.

In addition to the false alarm calls, Stewart said the RCMP spends a lot of time following up on abandoned 911 calls, which the detachment received nearly 2,000 of in 2017.

“We are legislated and have a policy which is very strict in terms of following up on 911 calls,” Stewart said. “In other jurisdictions, there have been some that have unfortunately led to tragedies, and that’s placed an onus on us to be very scrupulous in ensuring that nobody is at risk.”

Topping the Top 20 Calls for Service list with 2,731 reports, however, are traffic complaints.

“That can range, everything from a very specific complaint of a specific vehicle with a plate driving in a dangerous manner to, ‘I saw a grey car pass me dangerously a week ago,’” Stewart said.

“It does occupy quite a bit of our time.”

Offences increase

For the first quarter of 2018, Vernon North Okanagan RCMP saw a 10 per cent increase in criminal code offences and a six per cent in property crimes over that time last year.

Of the top 20 calls for service in terms of volume received in 2017, only threats would be considered a crime against persons, Stewart said. The RCMP does receive reports of other crimes against persons on an ongoing basis but not to the level of the other top 20 types.

“I think that’s a reflection of what consumes a lot of our time. Not to say that those particular crimes against persons don’t occupy a lot of our time, because they tend to be the files that we put the most work into,” Stewart said.

Road check stops also increased by 5.56 per cent while alcohol-related enforcement decreased by 14.7 per cent.

Vernon itself saw an increase of 5.7 per cent in calls for service, up to 4,489 from 4,427.

“Our detachment remains committed to our strategic priorities of crime reduction, communication and road safety,” Stewart said.

Related: Volunteers needed for RCMP program


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