Nanaimo RCMP’s officer in charge credits COVID-19 with swings in crime statistics for the first quarter 2021 compared with 2020.
Nanaimo RCMP Insp. Lisa Fletcher presented her report to Nanaimo city council Monday when she laid out the city’s latest crime statistics for January through March.
Police were called 634 times to deal with incidents of mischief, which capped the top 10 list of calls Fletcher cited in her report.
“Mischief involves damage to someone’s property that prevents them from enjoying it,” Fletcher said.
Nanaimo RCMP also responded to 566 calls for people causing a disturbance, 561 calls for trespassing, 374 calls for traffic-related issues, 242 for thefts from vehicles, 191 assaults, 188 incidents of people uttering threats, 168 calls for theft under $5,000 and 154 calls for shoplifting.
Property thefts plummeted 32 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period for 2020.
“Some communities experienced more thefts, but overall this was decreased,” Fletcher said. “We attribute some of that to the fact that more people were home. Some businesses were closed and working with less people coming into the stores as they enacted COVID protocols and this decreased some of the thefts related to shoplifting.”
Vehicle collisions were down locally too because businesses and schools closed, which meant fewer people were driving, she said, but arrests for drug trafficking rose as police took action to “mitigate the extremely negative impact of the opioid crisis.”
Violent crimes increased 28 per cent in Nanaimo, possibly because offenders were not held in custody as long as would normally be the case due to COVID safety protocols, Fletcher said. Offences involving violence rose also.
“However, we have seen have seen some national increases as well in this field,” Fletcher said. “Further, our violent offences are trending up and this is across Canada.”
Sexual offences are up too. Nanaimo saw a nine per cent rise and is currently above the seven per cent increase nationally.
“This is trending upwards at plus 85 per cent [five-year average],” Fletcher said. “This could be also as a result of increased media attention on reporting and the inappropriateness of these types of incidents.”
Child sexual exploitation cases have jumped 100 per cent for the quarter.
“We in Nanaimo are one of eight communities that has advanced training and expertise in this area and we have been doing a lot of very strong investigative work and that may also have impacted the scoring somewhat as we’re better poised to recognize the material,” Fletcher said.
Nanaimo RCMP’s mental health liaison officer, Const. Joshua Waltman, has been working with Island Health. Mental health-related calls are up and Fletcher said people with whom he and his Island Health counterpart have worked have come away more stable and have been less likely to need repeat calls for service. She said the Nanaimo RCMP is looking for opportunities to formalize the partnership with Island Health.
Police are seeing fewer people driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol, but those drivers who have been caught are showing higher blood-alcohol levels.
“Of those that we have detected using alcohol [we’re] very concerned because the blood-alcohol concentration ratings were very high, which is obviously a disturbing statistic,” Fletcher said.