Penticton RCMP officers are dealing with the highest criminal case burden in the province, according to the detachment’s top cop.
Supt. Ted DeJager said the 46 officers in Penticton have a criminal case burden (ranging from calls of disturbances to serious criminal investigations) of 106 per member while the provincial average is 56 and the municipal average is in the high-20s and low-30s.
Surely to be adding to that is the Street Enforcement Unit which has become close to fully staffed over the last few weeks. They have been “kicking down doors to drug houses and putting bad guys in jail” said DeJager.
“When people ask questions like ‘why don’t I ever see a police car?’ It is because they are busy. We are the busiest detachment in the province,” he said.
“(Wednesday) there was 60 calls for service in the day shift — six members working 10 files. A minor file of a disturbance of someone in the back alley takes about an hour. We have to drive there, talk to the people, write it up, clear it and then go to the next call. They went from call-to-call-to-call and somewhere in there ate lunch. Their visibility became driving call-to-call.”
Currently the Mounties have their hands full with eight child porn investigations, three major frauds pushing $1 million and dealing with disclosure on the four murder charges from April. The last item alone takes officers away from duties while investigating or clearing things up for Crown.
All the while the public is demanding for more visibility. DeJager said he is well aware of his and the detachment’s critics on social media that often become personal attacks — including meme’s of Superintendent.
“I’ve been wearing the uniform in this country for 37 years and you can paste my head onto anybody’s body you want and I don’t really give a hoot. It’s not solving anything. My members see that. My members strap on the body armour every morning and they go out and serve this community and that is the type of response they get and quite frankly it’s … I wont say the word.”
However, he said the vitriol only comes from the minority of the community. Officers, said DeJager, quite often are given coffee cards from members of the public and even had flowers dropped off at the detachment following the mass shootings in April.
For those that simply want the RCMP to round up and arrest everyone, DeJager said that the law does not allow them to do that and solutions to deal with things like addictions and mental health need to come from community organizations working together.
“People who want the folks sitting on the library lawn, or at Nanaimo Square, loaded up on a bus and sent off to another community — that is not what we do as police. Even if we could do that, that is a startling indictment on our society that we want to ship our problems somewhere else instead of dealing with them head on,” he said.
DeJager said the public should expect to see a lot more from the street enforcement unit as they continue to focus on drug dealers. He added while they do not tolerate criminal behaviour from anybody in the community, the focus is not necessarily on the drug users. In order to have a criminal charge approved by Crown counsel there is a demand for a substantial likelihood of conviction. He clarified that they absolutely will respond to the calls of someone observed doing drugs, but if they don’t find anything when they get there they have to walk away.
The Superintendent again invites everyone to join Citizens on Patrol or form a Block Watch to look out for their neighbours, just as he has in the past.
“That is all there and to-date, lots of talk and lots of keyboard strokes but not a lot of people joining up,” said DeJager.
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