Nanaimo RCMP Supt. Cameron Miller addresses city council Monday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, providing a regular update about policing statistics, pressures and priorities. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Statistics say Nanaimo cops are busier than ever

Nanaimo Mounties working busy days as calls for service skyrocket

Nanaimo Mounties are putting in some busy shifts as city’s crime statistics soar ever higher.

Nanaimo RCMP detachment released a breakdown on Monday of calls dispatched to general duty officers for a 24 hour period sometime in late January or early February.

Police won’t provide the exact date the statistics were recorded for privacy reasons, but for the day selected, officers responded to 138 calls, which included 17 calls for unwanted guests, 15 traffic related files, 13 disturbances, 12 calls to assist the public or other agencies, 10 suspicious persons or occurrences, 10 calls to check someone’s well-being, eight thefts, six threats, five abandoned 911 calls, five alarms, five property crimes, four mischief files, three breaches of recognizance, three bylaws violations, three possible impaired drivers, three break-and-enters, three calls for harassment and three calls for people with mental health issues. There were also two fraud cases, two missing persons, two drug files, one assault, one domestic dispute, one shoplifter and one call for a firearm issue.

“We like the public to know how extremely busy our officers are,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman.

O’Brien said the list represents an average day, but on weekends and on special occasions it can get to the point there are 12-hour shifts where officers don’t even get a chance for a coffee break.

In fact, calls for service overall have climbed 16 per cent in Nanaimo since 2015.

“It’s worthwhile to note, this is faster than our population growth in our community,” said Nanaimo RCMP Supt. Cameron Miller, in a presentation to city council Monday.

In some areas of the city, statistics skyrocketed in 2017. Police responses for people with mental health issues across Nanaimo are 55 per cent higher since 2015 and mental health issues calls for downtown Nanaimo leaped 79 per cent from 262 calls in 2015 to 469.

Nanaimo RCMP is working on a partnership with Island Health to deal with mental health issues to streamline the process of getting people appropriate help and free up police man hours.

Calls for police service around 437 Wesley St., where an overdose prevention site was established in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter in 2016, jumped 97 per cent to 468 in 2017 from 237 in 2015.

Miller also noted a “dramatic increase” in homelessness across the city and said the homeless migrants now come to Nanaimo earlier in the year, arriving as early as March, and stay until October or November or don’t leave at all.

Police in Nanaimo work with provincial partners, such as Island Health, to implement programs dealing with mental health issues, outreach and addiction support programs and have worked with the city to make showers available to the homeless to help them “get clean and build self-esteem and build confidence” as part of an overall strategy to mitigate homelessness and addiction.

“Moving homeless people from one place to another, simply displaces the problem … So you have to look at mitigation options where the RCMP is a partner in this … the Criminal Code of Canada and the safety of the community is the RCMP’s responsibility, but homelessness is an integrated approach that we have to work on,” Miller said.

Child pornography cases and increasing gang activity rank among Nanaimo RCMP’s other priorities for 2018, plus marijuana storefronts, about 15 of which are operate illegally in Nanaimo, Miller said, without business licences, paying taxes or regulation.

The RCMP will also outsource outfitting of its police cars, which require specialized emergency lighting kits, roof racks, bumpers and electronic equipment. Miller said municipal police forces on the south Island and Lower Mainland already outsource vehicle outfitting.

“There will be a garage selected somewhere on the Island for police cars for all Vancouver Island detachments – somewhere between 20 and 50 cars a year, the numbers are still being determined – but this would create good paying jobs in the community,” Miller said.

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