At the City of Powell River committee of the whole meeting on January 17, RCMP staff sergeant Rod Wiebe, in reviewing the 2022 policing report, said the detachment’s establishment of staff has not changed since 2020. He said the city is paying for 20 members and the province is paying for eight.
In reviewing the detachment’s vacancy rate, the numbers have fallen short of the authorized number of full-time equivalent staff. In 2022, there were 5.19 full-time equivalent vacancies, according to Wiebe.
“Because of those vacancies, the overtime rate to maintain minimum staffing levels, makes the overtime budget over budget, and currently, we are about $40,000 over this year, just to fill in the holes the vacancies have made,” said Wiebe. “All the overtime leads to burnout, which is a vicious circle. The members are burned out and can’t come to work.
“Vacancies have led to the collapse of the major crimes/drug unit and our community policing unit.”
Wiebe said calls for service in 2022 are down nine per cent. In 2021, there were 6,716 calls for service and in 2022, 6,114. Because this is a regional detachment, not all those calls were in town, said Wiebe. A total of 77 per cent of the calls were municipal and 23 per cent were out of the city.
Wiebe said of the 6,114 calls for service, they are broken down into certain crimes that provide a barometer of what is going on in town. He said break and enters are down 28 per cent in 2022 from 2021. Theft under $5,000 rose from 166 in 2021 to 182 in 2022, for an increase of 10 per cent, according to Wiebe.
Assaults were down 16 per cent, impaired driving is down 16 per cent and drug offences are down 44 per cent in 2022 from 2021.
“Impaired driving and drug offences are normally proactive initiatives, so given our vacancies, these numbers don’t surprise me, because we don’t have time to go out and proactively target those offences,” added Wiebe.
Mental health calls for service take up a lot of officers’ time, said Wiebe. The 2022 figure was 312, compared to 319 in 2021.
Wiebe then reviewed the crime severity index, comparing the top 326 policing regions in Canada. This year, the Powell River detachment ranked 41 out of 326 police services in Canada. Five years ago, the detachment was at 110.
“We want the higher number; that makes you a safer city,” said Wiebe. “The crime severity index is not very forgiving for a small town because it goes per 100,000 people,” said Wiebe. “For the Vancouver Island district, Powell River is in the top five in violent crime severity index.”
Priorities for 2022 included road safety, crime reduction, youth, domestic violence and employee wellness. Wiebe said the detachment met some of its goals in those areas, but the brutal fact is with the vacancy pattern, those categories involve proactive work, and little got done in those areas.
“Calls for service and investigations take up approximately 80 per cent of our time right now,” said Wiebe. “That means we have 20 per cent of our time to target our priorities. That works out to 12 minutes per hour.”
Councillor George Doubt said looking at Wiebe’s statistics, he would not characterize 2022 as being a year of a crime wave and asked Wiebe his opinion.
Wiebe said: “not at all.”