The 2010 crime severity numbers from Statistics Canada put Prince Rupert at number nine in the country when it comes to violent crimes and number eight when it comes to non-violent and overall crime severity, and Inspector Bob Killbery of the Prince Rupert RCMP says he wasn’t surprised by the figures.
“These have to be taken in perspective. If you look at last year [for 2009 numbers], we were number six for both violent and crime severity so there is an improvement. A small one, but it is an improvement that shows we’re going in the right direction,” he said, acknowledging part of that comes from the two homicides in 2009 while there were none in 2010.
“There are some positive initiatives, like the bike patrol, the DARE program in school and the proactive work we’re doing with repeat offenders, to try and keep those numbers down, but it’s still a struggle. We deal with drug and alcohol issues and that drives a lot of that crime.”
And while the City of Prince Rupert has supported the RCMP with another officer this year, a position that started in July and will goward crime prevention, Killbery said the Prince Rupert detachment’s case load per officer is still above the provincial average, which can make it difficult to keep up with crime in the community.
“When you look at the severity index, it shows that the cases we are handling aren’t easy ones and are sever in nature. Unfortunately, these days it also takes longer to investigate these crimes,” he said, pointing to changing laws and procedure.
“I hate to go back to the City all the time with my hand out saying ‘we need more members, we need more members,’, but that is the reality. We need more people to decrease the case load per officer in Prince Rupert.”
And, says Killbery, with all the expansion planned for the North Coast the need for more officers will only increase.
“If people look at Prince Rupert and the opportunities that are here, we need to be aware that with additional people comes additional crime…It’s a bit of a double-edge sword. If there is a booomtown it takes us as police a while to get ahead of the curve because it takes time to catch up to the population growth with the numnber of officers,” he said, adding that the RCMP do welcom the expansion and opportunities on the horizon.
“If people look at the economy in the north in general, there are a number of communities in the north – like Prince George, Fort St. John and Williams Lake – that are among the top in terms of crime and ahead of us. It is indicative of the economy and I think there is a link that can be drawn.”