RCMP foot patrols will be hitting the downtown core soon as part of a multi-pronged attempt to deal with rising crime, said Chilliwack’s top cop.
They’ve seen increases, year over year, from March of last year to March of this year, in theft from vehicles (+57%), auto theft (+38%), property crime (+33%), and weapons offences (+114%).
Supt. Deanne Burleigh came before council Tuesday, at the behest of the Mayor, to map out what the Upper Fraser Valley RCMP is doing in terms of crime reduction and prevention.
“In response to rising crime rates, I was asked to come this afternoon to speak on what is going on in the community,” Supt. Burleigh said in council chambers.
It’s really about what can be done as a community, and what can they can do as a police force, she noted, especially since Chilliwack is growing rapidly, and facing big-city crime challenges.
Under the “what have we done” category, Project Valley Sweep topped the list. That’s where officers from Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Mission are joining forces to focus exclusively on repeat or chronic prolific offenders, who commit the majority of the crimes. They’re seeing similar property crime spikes in all three communities.
Valley Sweep features an “overt” or uniformed team specifically targeting those who commit property crime “as a way of life,” she underlined. “We stop them when we see them, and we offer them rehabilitation — or we arrest them and take them to jail.”
They checked more than 200 prolific offenders in the first month, with 40 arrests and 30 criminal charges.
“In the last week alone we’ve had another 70 contacts, with more arrests. So it’s a very positive project from a public safety perspective,” Supt. Burleigh said.
What else? The public has been calling for more “boots on the ground” and police visibility in the downtown, since even before the stabbing death in a downtown parking lot, and the non-fatal one in a park.
The RCMP top cop reminded everyone that some of most recent downtown incidents were targeted.
“The recent events, the violent crimes, the stabbings and the unfortunate murders that we’ve had, those are targeted by those who are involved in lifestyles that those of us who are here are not involved in.”
The local RCMP presence shifts with crime patterns.
“We’re moving our resources where we need them,” she said, adding they are conducting “full data analysis” on a regular basis.
If there’s a spike in a certain type of crime in a particular area, they’ll move resources in there.
“We will be starting foot patrols in the downtown core within the week, and we’ve got a bike patrols out there,” she said.
That’s added to a traffic unit, general duty members, crime prevention, plain clothes, property crime unit, drug squad, major crimes, prolific offender unit, and social chronic/mental health unit.
“So there are a variety of response units, and when you see marked cars out there it’s a fraction of what is out there,” she said.
She underlined the importance of traffic enforcement, responding to critics who might question if they had anything better to do than write tickets during enforcement blitzes.
But the real purpose aside from ticketing for infractions, she said, is getting prohibited drivers out from behind the wheel, and getting those who have warrants against them off the road as well.
Keep valuables out of the vehicle, and engrave IDs into them. Garage door openers should not be visible, and don’t set the ‘home’ function on the GPS.
“Little tips like that will make a big difference.”
Coun. Jason Lum said no one is getting anywhere playing the ‘blame game’ when it comes to how to deal with spiking crime rates.
“It’s not an RCMP problem here in the community, it’s a community crime reduction issue, and we need to address it as a community.”
The number one take-away for him was that they can’t do it alone.
If the community is seeing a rash of theft from vehicles for example, he added, they need to react and make sure they’re taking the Superintendent’s advice and lock up everything, and do their part in terms of prevention.
As chair of the public safety advisory committee, they’re working towards community strategies, and are open to collaboration.
“I believe the RCMP are addressing the rising crime to the very best of their ability. Everything I saw and heard in council chambers from the Superintendent shows me we have an RCMP detachment with leadership that responds and evolves their tactics to deal with the changing face of crime in Chilliwack.”
The foot patrols are something the community favours according to public discussion forums.
“So they are making changes to the policing strategy as things arise, which is an example of local RCMP listening very closely to residents and business owners in the downtown and responding in kind. I welcome that,” said Lum.