Assaults were up in Port Coquitlam in 2022, even as crime rates declined overall, according to year-end statistics presented to Port Coquitlam council on March 7.
There was a slight decrease in crime for the year. Fifty-four crimes per 1,000 persons were committed last year, compared to the three-year average of 58 crimes per 1,000 persons.
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Most of that downward trend in crime is related to an 11 percent decrease in property crimes over the three-year average, according to RCMP Insp. Darren Carr.
Theft from vehicles was the most common type of property crime last year, accounting for 22 percent.
Carr noted, however, the detachment has seen a 64 percent uptick in catalytic converter thefts.
Mayor Brad West said he was happy to see the figure go down, as property crime-related issues are one of the biggest concerns forwarded to his office.
West spoke of his frustration with the judicial system, relating to a lack of prosecution or serious jail time for prolific offenders.
“Allowing a small number of individuals to continually victimize the rest of society, I don’t think is healthy, and I don’t think it’s right,” West said. “The province, I think, has acknowledged that some of the reforms that the federal government made have swung the pendulum too far.”
Similar downward trends include calls for service, which have dipped over the last three years. The detachment received 10,935 calls in 2022, more 2,200 calls fewer than in 2019.
While the lower calls for service may appear positive, Carr said it was “a bit of a double edged sword,” as regulatory reforms require officers to invest more time into calls for service.
However, he said that Coquitlam RCMP’s response time remains the best in the entire Lower Mainland, averaging 1.4 minutes and 2.7 minutes for priority-one and priority-two calls, respectively.
The more-concerning statistics in the report, however, related to the increase in person crimes.
Compared to the three-year average, person crimes increased 26 percent last quarter, and 11 percent annually.
These included 88 cases of assaults (29 percent increase), 9 cases of robbery (170 percent increase), and 17 sex offence cases (76 percent increase) in the last quarter alone.
The most common of person crimes in 2022 were assault (44 percent), threats (20 percent), and harassment (17 percent).
Carr said most assaults are unreported, as they are often committed against people known to each other.
Mental-health related calls continued to remain elevated in 2022. There were 729 calls last year, compared to 574 in 2019, an increase of 21 percent. Carr said this trend was similar across the Lower Mainland.
“I think the public would be surprised to know that a majority of a police officer’s time is not dealing with criminal code-related matters, but dealing with fallout from social issues, whether it’s homelessness, mental health, addictions and so on,” he said.
Three officers in the detachment are solely committed to proactively working on mental health files, focusing on residents who have constant issues to reduce the number of service calls.
The joint policing council has continued to push Fraser Health to expand the Car 67 Program, which would team up officers with mental-health nurse to de-escalate situations and provide crisis intervention.
Carr said that he didn’t want to point fingers, but the delay has been on Fraser Health’s side. He said they may need to start looking for other programs and initiatives.
“We haven’t gotten any real traction,” he said.
Some on council expressed frustration with the health authority over the slow process.
Coun. Glenn Pollock said they’ve been advocating for the program for eight years with no success. He suggested raising the issues at an upcoming meeting with Fraser Health.
“I’m happy to be insensitive and completely blame Fraser Health … They keep saying no,” he said. “I’m happy to run that up the flagpole again and see if they salute this time. I won’t hold my breath.”
On traffic enforcement, officers issued 3 percent fewer tickets in 2022 compared to the three year average.
Carr said they are continuing to target high accident zones such as the Mary Hill Bypass and Lougheed Highway, but staff vacancies are challenging the time their officers can put towards traffic-related enforcement.
Vacancies hover between 23 and 25 percent, Carr said, adding all of the detachment’s staffing holes relate to officers being off on leave, or a gradually returning to work.
Coun. Darrel Penner said it was the highest vacancy rate he can recall, but Carr responded it was consistent across the Lower Mainland region, including municipal services.
“Policing is not as an appealing profession as once it was,” Carr said, stating recruitment initiatives are taking place, and health wellness employee are trying to get officers back to work.
“We need to work smarter, we need to use the resources that we have more efficiently, and we’re constantly doing that,” Carr said. “It took us some time to get into this resourcing challenge, and it will take some time to get out of it as well.”
Other new initiatives being carried out include a property crime dashboard, where the public will be able to view which areas of the city are being targeted, and an ongoing review of the detachment’s community policing model.