Sidney/North Saanich RCMP recorded a 17 per cent in calls involving mental health in 2020 compared to 2019. (Black Press Media File)

Sidney/North Saanich RCMP recorded a 17 per cent in calls involving mental health in 2020 compared to 2019. (Black Press Media File)

Sidney/North Saanich RCMP responded to more mental health calls during COVID-19 pandemic

Mental health calls rose 17 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019

COVID-19 has not caused “a significant change in crime trends” in Sidney and North Saanich but nonetheless led to more calls for service with mental health as a factor.

This assessment appears in a report from the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP detachment to Sidney council. It finds that the detachment handled 6,440 calls for service in 2020 in its coverage area, which includes Sidney, North Saanich, as well as Tsartlip, Tseycum, Pauquachin and Tsawout nations. This figure marks a drop of eight per cent compared to 2019.

“While B.C. is still amidst the COVID-19 crisis, data-to-date suggests that, unlike other jurisdictions, there has not been a significant change in crime trends,” the report reads. “There has, however, been a 17 per cent increase in calls where mental health is a factor.”

The report shows a relationship between the number of mental health calls and the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health calls “spiked” in the spring, then “normalized” in June and July only to spike again in August and September. As such, the number of mental health calls mirrored the rise and fall of COVID-19 case counts. This said, the number of mental health calls did not rise as cases rose again in final months of 2020 as the detachment recorded a 12 per cent in mental health calls during the fourth quarter. The report does not outline potential causes for the drop.

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The report also finds a 20 per cent increase in “public disorder occurrences” in 2020 compared to 2019. “These calls included complaints of panhandling, public intoxication, cause disturbances and property damage and unwanted persons.”

The report reiterates a finding from the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, namely that it has had a “huge impact” on vulnerable populations with effects on the Saanich Peninsula. “While the City of Victoria and BC Housing have worked to put much needed supports in place, there was, during this transition, an influx of vulnerable persons in Sidney/North Saanich.”

The report also finds officers responded to 95 calls for service where COVID-19 might have been a factor, with 50 falling under the federal quarantine act and 14 under provincial COVID-19 measures. The report finds these calls were typically complaints about vehicles with American licence plates in the area; individuals not following mask protocols or self-isolation rules. Two individuals received tickets for having violated COVID-19 restrictions.

The report notes that these calls required responders to take extra precautions such as using personal protection equipment and increased physical distancing among others. “ln some of these cases, members had to return to the detachment and decontaminate their clothing and themselves.”


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