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High housing costs a factor in Sidney/North Saanich RCMP staffing shortage

Major crimes unit kept busy with 24 new investigations
Staff Sgt. Wayne Conley (right, here seen in 2020) says a never-seen-before confluence of retirements, promotions and injuries have caused staffing challenges at the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP detachment. One of the retirees includes the previous community policing officer, Const. Paul Mittelsteadt (left). (Black Press Media file photo)

The high cost of housing on the Saanich Peninsula could be contributing to staffing challenges at the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP detachment, but relief is on the way, the public heard.

“It has been a challenging year for the detachment on the resource front after losing six officers so far this year to retirements, promotions with transfers and transfers,” said Staff-Sgt. Wayne Conley Monday. “But I’m happy to say replacement officers are now arriving.”

Two new officers arrived in July, two more in August, with two more scheduled to arrive at the end of August, he said. “However, we still have two more positions to be filled and I do not have officers named to those vacant positions as of yet.”

Conley made those comments as he gave Sidney council an update on local policing matters.

“In a nutshell, the interest of other officers to come to Sidney isn’t that high, which surprises me, because it is such a wonderful community,” said Conley after Coun. Terri O’Keeffe had asked him about the reasons behind the staffing shortages. “But maybe cost of living is a big factor there. So yes, that presents that challenge.”

Conley added the local detachment relies more on cadets coming from the RCMP Training Academy in Regina but COVID-19 greatly reduced the number of cadets coming through.

The detachment also experienced a never-seen-before confluence of retirements, promotions and injuries all within the same month, he said. “And it left me scrambling to figure out how I am going to address this.”

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Along with the retirement of the detachment’s community policing officer, Const. Paul Mittelsteadt, the staffing shortage is also apparent in the unit tasked with investigating major crimes. “(It) has been operating at a very busy capacity here in 2021 with reduced resources,” he said. “We only have two officers in this unit out of four positions.”

The unit has taken on 24 new major crime investigations, as members continue to investigate cases from 2020, he said.

New cases under investigation include three cases of possession and distribution of child pornography, two assault investigations – including an aggravated assault, one child luring investigation involving the exploitation of a 12-year-old girl, and two sudden death investigations – one involving a drowning, the second involving what authorities have classified as an in-custody death, said Conley. “The person actually died while receiving medical attention,” he said.

“That investigation required the review of the Independent Investigations Office as mandated by the province,” he added. “They have completed their review with no blame associated or cause of the death associated to any actions by police.”

Among other cases, police are also investigating one case of human trafficking and one robbery case, as well as nine different sex assaults, some of which involve child sex assault allegations, said Conley.

“So you can recognize how busy those officers have been.”

Looking more broadly though, Conley’s accompanying report noted the overall number of criminal offences and motor vehicle collisions dropped across North Saanich and Sidney during the first six months of 2021 as crime continues to decline.

Historically, Sidney and North Saanich are among the safest communities in not only Greater Victoria, but Canada.

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