Kamloops’ top cop said he expects property crime to continue to rise due to changes that have impacted the effectiveness of policing.
Meanwhile, a city councillor said she is worried about an overwhelming sense of community frustration.
“Everywhere you turn, it’s like, ‘Well we can’t because of these limitations or these resources or for this reason,’ which are all valid. I’m not questioning that,” Coun. Sadie Hunter told the city’s community services committee meeting on Thursday (June 10),
“What I am worried about is that frustration is going to start to overflow and turn to vigilantism and taking things into their own hands.”
Hunter said that frustration is at the edge, where it is about to bubble over.
“I think that sense is not just one that I’m feeling,” she said. “It’s pretty wide in the community.”
Kamloops RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky said he believes calls for service and incidents of property crime will increase again next year. He added that social media has increased awareness of property-crime issues.
He said factors beyond police control, including charge approval standards in the courts, policy decisions and case law, have impacted policing, noting officers are as frustrated as residents.
Lecky said the public prosecution service “does not have appetite” to charge for minor property offences and noted recent court decisions and legislation introduced federally have impacted policing.
Other frontline changes cited by Lecky include a more cumbersome process to institute curfews, with the result being police street checks, once commonplace, are now only allowed for wellness checks.
Lecky said police may arrest somebody up to four times and, if someone is convicted, sentencing other than incarceration is encouraged. Collectively, he said, the changes are impacting police effectiveness.
“This is why I do believe we’re going to see trends for property crime continue to increase, is we don’t have the ability to hold them accountable like we had before,” Lecky said, adding he sees the trend increasing until policy changes are enacted.
Lecky gave a rundown of first-quarter crime statistics, from January through March.
His presentation came in the wake of a letter about crime, sent by the North Shore Business Improvement Association to the city and RCMP. That letter detailed a business owner victimized by crime and told by unwelcome guests in his patio that they “own the streets.”
Lecky said that while reported property crime appears to be down compared to 2020, he believes a more accurate metric to compare the current state of property crime in the community is to compare this year’s statistics to those of 2019, due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
Compared to 2020, reported property crime has decreased by 28 per cent, with 304 fewer files. Compared to 2019, however, first-quarter reported property crime in 2021 has increased by 30 per cent, with 184 more files. Burglaries of businesses decreased by 44 per cent (56 fewer files) compared to the same period in 2020, a time that included the onset of the pandemic and myriad business closures.
Compared to 2019, however, businesses burglaries rose by 13 per cent, with eight more files.
When looking at all other property crime statistics in the first quarter of 2021, compared to 2019, the numbers are all up this year: theft of motor vehicles increased by 114 per cent (33 more files), break and enters in residences increased by 35 per cent (nine more files) and shoplifting increased by 31 per cent (53 more files).
In citing her concerns about community frustration and potential vigilantism, Hunter cited the June 2016 attack on teenager Jesse Simpson, who was beaten with a baseball bat and will require life-long care.
Kristopher Teichrieb, who convicted of aggravated assault, had complained to police of numerous property crime incidents prior to the attack, which occurred when Simpson wandered onto Teichrieb’s Brocklehurst property while walking back from a grad party.
Coun. Denis Walsh suggested increased foot patrols on the streets to appease public concerns, while Lecky and community services director Byron McCorkell advised people need to secure their properties and not leave valuables in public view.
Drug use a grey zone
Lecky said the public expects people to be arrested for using drugs. Although simple possession of hard drugs have not been decriminalized, Lecky said Crown counsel has had no appetite to prosecute simple possession for quite some time. In fact, politicians — in Kamloops, across British Columbia and at the federal level — are advocating for decriminalization as a solution to the ongoing opioid crisis.
As certain neighbourhoods report crime concerns, Lecky provided metrics for reported property crime in Westsyde, North Kamloops and Valleyview in the first quarters of these years:
• North Kamloops
- 251 crimes in 2019
- 377 in 2020
- 348 to 2021
- 75 crimes in 2019
- 122 in 2020
- 122 in 2021
- 66 in 2019
- 73 in 2020
- 81 in 2021