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Smithers RCMP address crime index increase at quarterly update to council

Durnin said changes in the Town’s crime index are due to changes in how StatsCan collects police data

Smithers crime index might be on the rise, but at his quarterly update to Smithers council, Sgt. Darren Durnin of the Smithers RCMP detachment noted that these changes are largely due to how Statistics Canada collects crime data.

Previously, allegations without any corroborating or supporting evidence to support them would likely be scored as unsubstantiated, meaning the report would not be sent in to Statistics Canada.

However, as a result of new recommendations by a national committee, virtually every incident — regardless of whether or not the accusations are corroborated by evidence — is reported to Statistics Canada for annual crime statistics.

Every reported incident receives a score, this allows for uniform crime reporting to measure the incidents of crime,” said Durnin.

“The new [system] takes a victim-centric approach and focuses on the belief of the victim unless there is concrete evidence or proof the incident did not occur.”

While previously unsubstantiated crimes would simply not be reported, now they are, in virtually all cases, scored as “insufficient evidence to proceed.”

This means the scoring is used by Statistics Canada in their annual data gathering.

READ MORE: Darren Durnin gives RCMP quarterly update for Smithers at May 14 town council meeting

With the above in mind, as he broke down the numbers for Smithers, Durnin said that while the stats might suggest violent crime is on the increase, that what is really happening is the data is doing a better job of representing exactly what is being reported to police.

“I would expect the reported increase to, in theory, become the normalized rate,” said Durnin as he explained the above to council.

But discussing crime statistics, especially pertaining to RCMP calls for service for the purpose of preventing violence, Durnin said a large spike in calls from the hospital also caused a relative spike in figures.

In 2017, the RCMP responded to 58 calls for the purpose of preventing violence; 11 of those were at the hospital.

In 2018, the RCMP responded to 178 calls for the purpose of preventing violence; 122 of those were at the hospital.

To this, Mayor Taylor Bachrach posed a question about whether or not the recent closure of an emergency shelter in the Town could have affected these statistics

“I know there’s been a change around provision of housing and emergency shelter … and I understand, from talking to community service providers, that [this] has changed the way that certain members of our community use emergency support services so could you speak a little bit to [if] that is what we’re seeing?”

Durnin said incidents of mental health-related calls for police attendance have increased.

READ MORE: Smithers crime severity index jumps 30 per cent

But he also said a spike in calls for the purpose of preventing violence was likely affected by a relatively long hospital stay in a situation where transfer to a psychiatric unit would be the norm.

“These specific incidents in 2018 were unique in that one could not have expected an individual to have that length of stay at the hospital as often they’re transfered to a psychiatric unit,” said Durnin, noting regardless of how long someone is kept at the hospital the RCMP have a duty to keep the peace.

“Should somebody call, including the hospital, and make that request that’s where we’ll continue to respond.”

Durnin said he didn’t expect the numbers surrounding these sorts of calls to stay this high.

“I don’t expect that to be a trend unless there are continued challenges in the hospital system that prevent mental health-related patients in a psychiatric unit from being transferred to a designated facility.”

Durnin also discussed a recent rash of property thefts in the area, noting the detachment believes “a few newly-arriving offenders” to be responsible for the bulk of the increases.

“One particularly prolific offender is now in custody [and] I’d expect the spike to normalize in the current quarter,” said Durnin.

Durnin also discussed various updates to the detachment, such as the announcement of the new detachment commander, set for August 27.

He also discussed various planned upgrades to the detachment, such as roof repairs scheduled for 2020.