Police are giving themselves top marks for putting a dent in crime over the last four years.
Residents gathered at the Splatsin Community Centre in Enderby Wednesday for a presentation and public forum held by the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP, which graded itself on a number of policing metrics since 2019.
Wednesday’s forum provided input from Enderby residents into the RCMP’s new five-year strategic plan, which is set to come out in the spring.
The North Okanagan’s top cop, Supt. Shawna Baher shared statistics and the RCMP’s three top priorities from 2019 to 2022, which were enhanced public safety, community connections and road safety.
On the number of calls for service, there was a 1.49 per cent increase, which Baher considered a win, given the amount of population growth throughout the North Okanagan over that time period.
“We had an increase in calls for service but it’s very minimal in comparison to the amount of people we’ve had coming to the area,” she said. “That means we’re actually being successful because you’re not needing us as much. That’s great, we don’t want to be needed as much.”
On criminal charges, Baher noted an 8.1 per cent decrease from 2,527 charges that were forwarded to the courts in 2019 to 2,322 in 2022.
“That’s a win. We’re not charging as many people because hopefully we’re getting people the help that they need, hopefully we’re turning their lives around.”
The number of prisoners held decreased dramatically — by 23.9 per cent — from 2019 to 2022, which Baher attributed to the release or transfer of “intermittent prisoners,” which are prisoners that don’t get sent to a provincial institution but instead stay in RCMP cells.
Baher said many intermittent prisoners need medical attention, and some are addicted to drugs and would be better served in an institution that could medicate them “so (the withdrawal) is not so harsh for them.”
Police saw a 4.4 per cent increase in criminal code related offences, falling short of their goal.
“I think we can do better. We are trying,” Baher said.
On road safety, police saw a 2.1 per cent increase in traffic contacts, which Baher said was good to see. Traffic contacts do not necessarily mean handing out tickets; they also include warnings.
“It’s about changing driver behaviour,” Baher said.
In the public engagement portion of the presentation, road safety was the most commonly cited concern. Residents expressed concern about when traffic swells every summer with tourists passing through the area. One resident mentioned a stretch of highway in Grindrod near his home, where he routinely sees people speeding and passing dangerously.
Enderby Coun. Brian Schreiner would like to see Citizens on Patrol resurrected in the community. Baher said police have a “very robust” citizens on patrol in Vernon, and agreed that having more eyes and ears in the community would be a good thing.
Asked whether the RCMP is considering having mental health nurses accompany RCMP on calls involving a mental health crisis, Baher said that’s already in the works in Kelowna and Kamloops, as the RCMP is working on a program with Interior Health to have cars with police officers and nurses seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Once that’s been established in those larger cities, Baher said the program will expand to smaller cities including Vernon, Penticton, Cranbrook, Trail and Williams Lake.