The Smithers RCMP commander is hoping an additional officer approved by Smithers Town council in December will help his detachment reach their crime reduction goals.
At its regular meeting Jan. 14, Smithers Town Council brought forward the approved motion from an in-camera meeting held Dec. 10, 2019.
Acting Mayor Gladys Atrill said she could not release any of the information presented to council by Staff Sgt. Terry Gillespie at that meeting, but said the case he made was “compelling.”
Gillespie said it was a combination of crime statistics and workload data over the past five to seven years that made the case.
“Certainly as far as call volume goes, the trend has been toward higher than average call volume per member,” he said.
That was certainly the case in 2018 when Smithers saw a sharp increase in both the crime severity index (CSI) and violent crime severity index (VCSI) according to Statistics Canada data released in July, 2019.
Although any single year’s data can be a bit misleading, Gillespie pointed out the Smithers call volume and ranking in CSI and VCSI is still significantly higher than provincial averages year over year. In 2018, the CSI was 138.41 compared to 105.23 in 2017, a 31.53 per cent bump. Similarly, the VCSI was up 38.07 per cent and the NVCSI rose 28.74 per cent.
Of the 180 municipalities in British Columbia for which 2018 police-reported statistics are available, this ranks Smithers 23rd in CSI, 21st in VCSI and 24th in NVCSI, up from 42nd, 35th and 48th respectively in 2017.
Smithers RCMP has undertaken a number of initiatives over the past few years to try and drive those numbers down including reducing substance abuse, improving road and traffic safety and an improved relationship between the police and the community.
A project which began last year — Downtown for All — focuses on an increased presence of Smithers RCMP in the downtown core throughout the summer.
Gillespie thinks having another set of boots on the ground will reduce individual caseloads and help members to be more proactive in preventing crime.
Also to that end, Smithers Citizens on Patrol (COP), is engaged in a membership drive.
At a luncheon in November 2019 honouring the current COP members, Sgt. Darren Durnin, then-interim commander of the detachment, said the group definitely contributes to public safety.
“I know it can be easy to maybe not necessarily feel appreciated, but now that I’m a policeman and I’ve done both roles, community policing and engagement from the community directly involved and indirectly with us makes a difference in our communities that we serve,” he said.
The new position becomes effective Apr. 1 and will bring the total number of officers at the Smithers detachment to 21. They include one Indigenous Liaison officer, four members of the traffic unit and 16 general duty officers.
Of the 16 general duty members, 10 are municipal, which the Town pays for. All the others are funded by the provincial government.
The detachment also employs clerical staff, jail guards, victims services workers and auxiliary police.
Each municipal officer costs the Town approximately $140,000 annually.