Penticton council gave the go-ahead to get RCMP Superintendent Brian Hunter some more reinforcements in their budget deliberations on Nov. 24.
Those officers would join Supt. Hunter starting in 2021, and wouldn’t be seen on the streets. Instead, Hunter wants to go after the individuals he sees as largely behind the community’s disproportionately high caseload.
“Those two officers will be 100 per cent dedicated to a crime-reduction unit dealing with our prolific offenders. They’re not responding to calls, they are managing those prolific offenders to hold them to account.”
Those relatively few prolific offenders are the ones Supt. Hunter sees as driving the majority of the reports of crime in the community, and he hopes that by focusing on handling them, the amount of crime can be signifigantly cut and officers can be freed up to focus on other crimes.
“The big issue at this detachment is all we do is respond to calls for service,” said Supt. Hunter. “We don’t do any proactive work, and if we do, it’s at a minimal level because we just don’t have the resources.”
The average criminal caseload for an officer in B.C. is 59, according to Supt. Hunter, with Penticton at 113. Unlike previous presentations to council, Hunter did not want to commit to a set number of additional officers being a magic bullet to the caseload, and instead focused on the need for as many as he can get.
As of 2020, the Penticton RCMP detachment has 48 municipally-funded RCMP officers, 13 provincially-funded, 24 support staff, First Nations officers and six reserve constables. In 2021, there will 50 municipally-funded officers in Penticton.
For Supt. Hunter, the additional officers are not only key in assuaging the concerns of the community, but necessary to keep the local RCMP detachment healthy with the currently overwhelming caseload.
“I have to be candid with you, it’s about the wellness of your police officers in the community as well,” said Supt. Hunter. “It’s very stressful, and at times difficult to manage.”
As part of alleviating some of the workload his officers have to handle, new measures such as the inclusion of a municipal clerk in the watch shifts to handle administrative tasks were introduced and proved to be successful.
In his presentation to council, Supt. Hunter praised the online reporting that was introduced this year as well, noting that although it currently is limited in what crimes can be reported, slowly they will open it up to include more categories.
According to Supt. Hunter, Penticton has not only the highest numbers of online reported crimes per capita, but also in B.C. overall, which is a good sign.
“What that tells me is that the community’s engaged, they’re listening, kind of in alignment with See Something Say Something,” said Supt. Hunter. “It’s a good way to capture what’s going on in the community and it’s allowing our police officers more proactive time in the streets dealing with crimes that are occurring, rather than dealing with these types of crimes that have already occurred.”
As part of the budget approval from council for 2021, the RCMP detachment’s budget will be increasing from $9,806,148 to $10,433,000.