Crime is down across the board in Port Alberni for the first quarter of 2021.
Inspector Eric Rochette of the Port Alberni RCMP presented the stats from January to March to Port Alberni City Council on April 26. Rochette said overall criminal offenses were down by 31 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter last year. Break and enters were down 52 per cent, violent offenses down 17 per cent and theft from vehicles were down 72 per cent.
“Theft from vehicles—massive, massive reduction from 112 to 31,” Rochette said. “I think a big part of it is education, making sure you’re locking your vehicles, do not leave items of value in plain view.”
Domestic violence cases decreased from 43 calls for service in the first quarter of 2020 to 37 in 2021.
“Which is good news,” Rochette said. “The (domestic violence) numbers were steadily going up for a number of factors…COVID being one of them.”
For violent crimes, assaults went down from 69 in 2020 to 52 this year, assault with a weapon causing bodily harm went down to eight from 14 and uttering threats went down from 27 to 22. Harassment saw a slight increase from 11 in 2020 to 15 this year.
For property crimes, mischief to property went down to 86 this year from 139 last year, theft went down to 54 from 76 and shoplifting went down to 20 from 65.
“What we notice is a lot of stores do not call us, especially for first time offenders, they usually just issue a trespass notice telling the person not to return to the store and if they don’t return it’s usually not an issue,” Rochette said. “Or if the value of items stolen is minimal sometimes they just deal with it instead of calling police.”
Rochette said the pandemic has had a huge impact on the department’s staffing levels. Over the last three months, seven members have had to self-isolate for 14 days because they were exposed to someone with active COVID-19.
“We’ve been lucky and credit to the members, they’ve been using their personal protective equipment when it’s required and we’ve had no positive cases but as soon as [a member] is in contact with a positive case we have to contact Vancouver Island Health Authority,” Rochette said.
Rochette pointed to some good news for the department, telling council that Cst. Beth O'Connor of the Port Alberni RCMP, who works in the Indigenous Safety Team (IST), was successful in obtaining a grant of just under $75,000. This will go towards hiring a registered social worker to be a part of the IST.
“We’re trying to improve the Indigenous social navigator program to address social and injustice issues facing Indigenous people within the City of Port Alberni,” Rochette said. “It’s been a really successful program for the last couple of years and when I look at stats and seeing the reduction of the calls for service I think this program has a massive impact on that.”
Late last year the Port Alberni RCMP began a five-month project to get mid-level drug dealers off the streets of Port Alberni.
Rochette said during the project, the Port Alberni RCMP were able to conduct four search warrants and arrest 10 people that they’re working on seeking possession for the purpose of trafficking charges against. Rochette also said officers seized a “fairly large” amount of illegal drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl, GHB and methadone, as well as a handgun, tasers, machetes, knives, other weapons and $13,000 in cash.
“The street value of all the illegal drugs that we seized is close to approximately $400,000,” Rochette said.
This project was possible thanks to a $45,000 grant the detachment received from the Provincial Tactical Enforcement Priority program, which Rochette said they apply for every year.
Coun. Ron Paulson asked Insp. Rochette if crime stats are down because prolific offenders are either in jail or away from the community.
“There’s a few (offenders) for sure that we arrested over the last three months and some were sentenced to a few months in jail,” Rochette said. “One person in particular was related to the drug world and property crimes who was sentenced and plead guilty to assault causing bodily harm and he received a conditional sentence order with a no go to Alberni Valley.”
Rochette said if there’s no reason for an offender to be in Port Alberni, like family in the area or being from the Valley, he likes to push with Crown council to ban them from the community.
Coun. Cindy Solda asked how Port Alberni’s crime stats compared to other communities on the Island.
“If you look in general there’s been a reduction in property crime all across the board, but it’s been more drastic if you look at Port Alberni,” Rochette said.
Courtenay also saw a drop to break and enters this quarter with numbers falling from 87 in 2020 to 50 in 2021 from January to March. Theft from vehicles also dropped this quarter in Courtenay from 121 last year to 98 this year.
Courtenay saw a 39 per cent increase in assault files in 2021 compared to the same quarter last year. They also saw an increase to sex offences from 21 in 2020 to 29 this year. Port Alberni’s sex offences were down by one this year compared to last year for the same quarter (12 in 2020 and 11 in 2021).
Domestic violence was up only slightly in Courtenay this quarter compared to the same quarter last year with 75 cases in 2020 and 76 in 2021.