RCMP staffing challenges in Sidney North Saanich as crime rates stay low in five-year trend

For much of 2016, the Sidney North Saanich RCMP detachment has been down a few officers — a staffing issue the acting commanding officer hopes will be remedied — at least in part — this year.

Acting Staff Sergeant Wayne Conley presented a summary of police activities, staffing levels and crime statistics for the northern tip of the Saanich Peninsula to Sidney town council Tuesday evening. Conley has been in the acting role since the detachment’s last Staff Sergeant, Ward Johnston, was re-ported elsewhere last year.

Conley said over most of 2016, the detachment was operating at costs below their projected budget — mainly due to a lack of a full compliment of officers. The Sidney North Saanich RCMP are typically budgeting for 15 officers, but Conley said there have been around 13. The shortfall has been due to staff shortages and transfers within the RCMP.

One of those transfers expected at the end of next month is that of long-time Sidney RCMP officer Corporal Erin Fraser. Fraser, Conley said, has been promoted after being in the acting second-in-command role at the detachment in recent months. She is one of six members who have been transferred out of Sidney over the last year.

Conley said Fraser, who has been active in the community and was the detachment’s media spokesperson, will be missed.

“She was my right hand person,” he said.

He added two new members are expected to join the local detachment in May and June.

As well, the detachment recently received approval for a crime analyst position.

“This will be very beneficial,” he said, noting that a crime analyst will help address a rise in property crime in Sidney.

So far in April alone, property crime has spiked by 31 per cent, Conley said. That’s been driven by a jump in thefts from vehicles. And most of those thefts, he said later in the meeting, have been facilitated by vehicle owners leaving their doors unlocked.

As well this month, Conley said there has been a 20 per cent increase in ‘persons crime’ — mostly around harassment cases. There has also been a slight jump in drug offenses.

Over all of 2016, Conley reported police saw a 22 per cent increase in ‘persons crime’ over the previous year.

Yet, despite these recent spikes in crime, he said the five-year trend still shows overall crime levels are dropping. Only in the recent quarter — January to April — has there been a significant change to those trends.

This year, the Sidney North Saanich RCMP will focus its resources of trying to prevent thefts from vehicles and increasing the visibility of police through additional foot patrols and addressing panhandling issue sin Sidney’s core downtown area.

By the numbers

– 2,579: violation tickets written by the RCMP in 2016 in Sidney and in North Saanich

– 3,406: calls for service responded to by the RCMP

– 96: people jailed in Sidney

– 98: mental health calls made to the local RCMP

– 4: impaired drivers arrested so far in 2017