Nanaimo RCMP Supt. Cameron Miller says shoplifting has plummeted, but break-and-enters and public intoxication have escalated rapidly as businesses and services have closed under coronavirus controls. (News Bulletin file photo)

Shoplifting way down, break-and-enters up in Nanaimo during COVID-19 pandemic

Break-and-enters to businesses increased 65 per cent in the last two weeks of March, say police

Nanaimo’s top cop says break-ins and thefts from vehicles have jumped and people living on the streets are more aggressive under measures to control coronavirus.

In his report to Nanaimo city council on Wednesday, RCMP Supt. Cameron Miller, said for the last two weeks in March versus the first to weeks in March, police saw shoplifting complaints drop 80 per cent with most stores closed and those that are open posting security guards, but break-and-enters to businesses and residences and public intoxication is way up.

“Consuming liquor and intoxication in public is up by about 45 per cent … break and enters to businesses up 65 per cent, break and enters to residential are up about 20 per cent, so we are seeing that sort of stuff,” Miller said.

Police are also seeing more aggression from people experiencing homelessness.

“Homeless people on the street are noticeably becoming more aggressive,” Miller said. “They’re somewhat confused because this is a situation they have not seen before with respect to the restaurants where they get their food and a lot of their services are being closed. We’re noticing the street price of drugs has increased because of the supply coming in from the States is shut down with the border being closed.”

Dave LaBerge, city manager of community safety, said in his report to council, bylaws officers have also witnessed a “heightened tension and anxiety on the street.”

“One thing the officers have seen is there’s a sense of fear and there’s clearly a scarcity of services,” LaBerge said. “One of the things that’s arisen is there’s hoarding food on the street, just like some people do in their homes, and it’s making it more difficult to keep some of these encampments that we encounter every day mobile.”

Many more people trying to take shelter in parkades and around city facilities and bylaws officers are busy attending closed skate parks, lacrosse boxes and playgrounds where people are continuing to gather.

The Nanaimo RCMP detachment has also developed new policies for cleaning facilities and handling prisoners brought to cells if they appear to have symptoms of COVID-19 of other infectious diseases. Cleaning staff has also been increased.

“We’ve also amended our policies when we attend sudden deaths,” Miller said. “If it’s a suspected COVID-19 death we will equip our members with disposable bunny suits and masks to reduce the risk of exposure.”

Some members of the detachment who can work from home are doing so. Nanaimo’s front line police force is fully staffed, but to achieve that and protect the health of officers to maintain a fully effective force 24-seven, school liaison work and other operations have been “collapsed” and members redeployed to front-line police operations to deal with increased numbers of calls of reports from the public about suspicious activity.

“My greatest challenge right now is ensuring that I will have enough officers to meet the need,” Miller said in a response to a question by Coun. Erin Hemmens. “At this time I am fully staffed and can meet all operational requirements. In the event my officers are exposed to COVID-19, I could, realistically lose a whole watch and that would require me to move resources and redeploy and reapply, so my biggest challenge right now is to ensure my officers stay safe and have the support they need to help the community.”

Training has been suspended until at least Sept. 15 and all leave in the RCMP has been cancelled by the commissioner of the RCMP until July 1.

READ ALSO: Thieves taking advantage of empty streets, say Nanaimo RCMP

LaBerge said bylaws officers have not been asked by the province to help enforce coronavirus control measures, such as ensuring social distancing.

“We have had some clarity by the area health officer … on matters such as with these health orders on mass gatherings and what these implications would be to areas, such as outdoor trails, stairs or seawalls and they’re of the opinion that it would be more problematic to try to curtail or prevent the public from using these spaces and just to try to self-govern proper protocols of social-distancing as circumstances warrant,” LaBerge said.



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Walk for Alzheimer’s will physically distance online this year

Nanaimo invited to take part in fundraiser for Alzheimer Society of B.C.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Community policing office’s closure will impact safety in the area

Strong police and bylaw presence needed in neighbourhood, say letter writers

Stolen gargoyle returns to its perch in south Nanaimo

Petey, a concrete gargoyle statue, was returned by police after City of Nanaimo crew found it

RDN Transit to see rollout of 15 new HandyDart buses

Buses will have temporary protective barriers installed to prevent spread of COVID-19

RDN says water in French Creek still potable despite levels of iron, manganese

Strategy to improve water quality being established

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

Beefs & Bouquets, May 27

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

Revelstoke woman finds welcoming letter on her Alberta-registered truck

There have been multiple reports online of vandalism to vehicles with Alberta licence plates

Spirit bear possibly spotted in West Kootenay

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run near Castlegar on May 27

B.C. businesses ‘can’t shoulder burden’ of COVID-19 sick pay

Trudeau’s plan should be tied to federal emergency aid

Most Read