More assaults, crimes of theft and mental health calls were detailed in the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP’s fourth quarter report for 2021.
The Vernon detachment received 5,399 calls for service in the final quarter of 2021, bringing the total on the year up to 20,958 calls. Vernon Mounties also responded to 1,578 Criminal Code offences and 938 property offences in the fourth quarter.
The call volume was an increase over the previous year, but in her presentation to Vernon council on Monday, Feb. 14, Supt. Shawna Baher said that was largely due to COVID-19.
“Last year we had an abnormal year where call volume was down,” Baher said. “There were a lot of different reasons … a lot of COVID restrictions in place where businesses were closed, people were home, so we didn’t see the increase in crime that we would normally see in that quarter.”
“Right now we’re in a normal peak, we’re a little bit higher than I would like in relation to the total calls for service,” Baher added.
Compared to the same quarter in 2020, assaults including domestic violence were up 32 per cent for a total of 132 cases in fourth quarter 2021. Theft under $5,000 was up 35 per cent, commercial break-and-enters were up 89 per cent and theft from vehicles increased by 20 per cent.
Baher highlighted theft from vehicles and theft under $5,000 as causes of concern. She said police have done a lot of crime prevention initiatives this year, including Lock Out Auto Crime with their citizens on patrol.
The trend of stolen Ford F-350 pickup trucks continued last year. Baher said the trucks are easier to steal than most other vehicles because they don’t have the same immobilizers that other vehicles do.
“Although we’ve arrested some people that trend is still continuing,” Baher said.
As many other police jurisdictions have seen, mental health calls continued to rise — and while not to the degree seen in Penticton where there was a 28 per cent increase, Vernon’s five per cent increase in mental health calls was “quite concerning,” Baher said.
Baher added that it’s not always the best response to have police attend mental health calls, as sometimes a police officer’s presence can aggravate rather than calm down the situation.
“We would much prefer to be in combination, or even give that to someone else to deal with,” she said.
Mayor Victor Cumming asked Baher whether Interior Health has been in touch with the RCMP regarding its feasibility study for a new mental health facility in Vernon. Baher said they had made contact but not to ask about programs, only to get advice on the physical structure that would be built.
Regarding the Vernon RCMP’s opioid pilot project, the detachment saw a lot of overdoses in October 2021. In November police handed out 142 naloxone kits. That number dropped to just 38 in December, reason being that roadways were impacted by flooding and the detachment couldn’t get kits delivered from the Lower Mainland.
“We had to go to different agencies here to get the kits, so we could have handed out more,” Baher said. She added the opioid pilot will be soon expanded to the Armstrong and Enderby detachments.
Elsewhere in the North Okanagan, Coldstream saw 381 calls for service in the fourth quarter of 2021 (for a total of 1,671 on the year), 72 criminal code offences (344 total) and 52 property crimes (199 total).
Vernon rural saw 479 calls (1,872 for the year), 87 criminal code offences and 53 property offences.
Armstrong had 166 calls for service in quarter four for a total of 1,090.
Spallumcheen had 235 fourth-quarter calls for 1,437 on the year.
Calls for service in Enderby totalled 385 in the fourth quarter and 2,384 for the year.