As the fall municipal election looms, there is likely one topic that will continue to spur debate: Crime.
Despite efforts to increase police numbers and provide more social support, crime remains a top concern among many residents.
On Tuesday, Supt. Bryon Massie, Officer in Charge of the Upper Fraser Valley Detachment was before Chilliwack city council to provide an update on the first half of the year.
In the job for only the past six month, Massie has been getting reacquainted with what is one of the busiest and complicated jurisdictions in the province.
His detachment stretches from Chilliwack to Boston Bar, encompassing several local governments, First Nations and the regional district.
In Chilliwack, the number of boots on the street has grown by 15 members over the past two years. But the municipal force remains a busy place.
Not only are police responding to more calls, but the complexity of those calls is increasing.
Indeed, assaults and other “crimes against persons” have grown by an unnerving 38 per cent.
Property crimes are down, Massie added. But he’s the first to admit that it might be because fewer break-ins are being reported.
Still, he is confident smart policing and strategic partnerships will make a difference. The detachment’s prolific offender unit made 187 arrests between January and June, targetting the core group responsible for the bulk of vehicle thefts and property crimes.
Its Crime Reduction Unit and drug section seized cocaine, fentayl, meth, cash and weapons following 17 residential searches.
But challenges remain.
There is the uncertainty over the legalization of recreational cannabis in October. There’s the potential of greater gang activity locally as police pressure increases elsewhere. And then there are the ongoing social problems that tap resources and make management difficult.
For example, police responded to 608 mental health related calls, resulting in 159 “apprehensions” under the Mental Health Act. (Officers must remain with individuals taken into custody under the MHA until they are released to the appropriate medical professional.)
The picture Massie painted illustrates the complexity of managing a major police jurisdiction with finite resources. The key, he said, is cementing partnerships and building stronger community relationships.
But that’s a tough thing to do when police are stretched as thinly as they are in Chilliwack.