Nanaimo RCMP vehicles on Labieux Road after an incident involving bear spray last month. (NEWS BULLETIN photo)

Theft, mischief, child porn cases on the rise in Nanaimo

Statistics Canada’s recently released 2018 figures show five-year high for crime incidents

Crime was on the rise in Nanaimo in 2018.

Statistics Canada figures for the year tallied a five-year high of 11,698 crime incidents within Nanaimo’s municipal boundaries for statistics recorded from 2014 to 2018.

Nanaimo’s per 100,000 population crime rate went up as well to 11,913, a 20.1 per cent rise over 2017’s, which had actually dropped nearly eight per cent from 2016.

Certain crime categories stood out. Theft, breaking and entering and thefts from vehicles accounted for the bulk of the year’s 7,460 property crime violations that pushed the property crime rate per 100,000 population up 28.5 per cent from 2017.

Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said the property crime rate is higher for Nanaimo than other parts of the Island and relates to issues surrounding drug abuse and how people who are addicted often turn to theft, hitting easy targets such as vehicles, garden sheds and yards or shoplift from retailers for goods they can convert into cash or trade for drugs.

“We’ve got an issue. We’re very aware of that. We’re working with our partners in the community,” O’Brien said. “Enforcement is a strong component of any issue in our community and we’re doing what we can.”

RELATED: Nanaimo RCMP ‘fully expect’ task force to cut down on crime in Terminal and Labieux areas

O’Brien said bicycle theft was one crime area Nanaimo RCMP detachment focused on when it introduced bait bikes this year.

“Sadly, it was very successful because as soon as we put a bait bike out it was being stolen, numerous times, and it didn’t matter where we placed a bike in town, it was being stolen,” he said.

People committing property crimes are often prolific offenders, O’Brien said, “and if you get one or two of these off the street we see a significant decrease in crime in our community, but we have to be consistent and I think we have been.”

Nanaimo RCMP created a six-member task force earlier this year to deal with street-level property crime, which O’Brien said produced significant results in the areas of the city it targeted, and police hope to form another task force this year. O’Brien could not discuss further details about that task force at this time.

“Crime is very dynamic. It moves. It shifts and our job is to understand what the shifting patterns are,” he said.

Bike patrols, Bar Watch and educating property owners, he said, helped curtail crime in the downtown core. Now central Nanaimo is seeing an uptick in property crime and theft is is on the rise in north Nanaimo. Mischief incidents – which can include theft, property damage, public disturbances and is often alcohol-related or the result of mental health disorders – also rose in certain parts of the city.

“With the two supportive housing units we did see individuals who were congregating around those,” O’Brien said. “We also saw people who were unfit to be in those units and many have subsequently been removed and the subsequent stabilization of those. We continue to address ongoing issues, as does the city of Nanaimo and B.C. Housing, but we are firmly committed to ensuring that there’s a smooth assimilation of those units into the communities in which they fit.”

Child pornography cases are on the rise in Nanaimo. There were 15 incidents in 2016, 42 reported cases in 2018 and 25 more are already on the books for 2019.

“We expect to exceed the 42 we received last year and a lot of that is from the co-operation we received from the British Columbia Integrated Child Exploitation Unit,” O’Brien said. “They have incredible technology and equipment. They’re constantly monitoring IP addresses and web addresses and as soon as they get a hit on somebody who is downloading or sharing child pornography that information is passed on to us and, unfortunately, a lot of those IP addresses are coming back from people in our community, so our General Investigations Unit is working nonstop. Probably the biggest operational files they have now are child pornography charges.”

The public is also quick to tip off police, either directly or through Crime Stoppers, when they see evidence of child pornography online.

Along with sentences – one conviction netted a six-year prison term, another netted a 10 year sentence – those convicted are entered into the Canada’s national sex offender data base.

“They will be on that for the rest of their lives,” O’Brien said. “That’s a significant deterrent for people who get involved with these because they’re quickly picked up if they’re associated with any other crimes.”

To learn more about Nanaimo’s crime statistics, click here.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Reducing crime starts in the home



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