BONNYVILLE – From July to September, the Bonnyville RCMP detachment saw a decrease in overall criminal code and traffic offences compared to last year during the same quarter.
According to policing statistics presented by RCMP S/Sgt. Sarah Parke during last Tuesday’s Bonnyville Town Council meeting, the total number of criminal code offenses dropped to 544 offences from a total of 610 offences that occurred in 2020.
Contributing to the decrease in criminal code offences, property crime dropped by nine per cent compared to last year during the same quarter. "Other criminal code offences" dropped by 33 per cent in the area the Bonnyville RCMP covers.
There were 359 property crime offences reported between July and September, whereas last year 393 offences were reported during the same period. However, persons crime rose by seven per cent with 104 offences being reported. Last year there were seven fewer persons crime offenses during the same period.
The Bonnyville RCMP detachment observed a 32 per cent drop in criminal code traffic offences, with 28 offences occurring.
There was, however, a 17 per cent increase in the provincial code traffic offences, with 408 occurring.
The policing statistics also showed a 48 per cent increase in motor vehicle collisions. Between July to September 34 collisions occurred, last year during the same period 23 occurred within the Bonnyville RCMP’s jurisdiction.
Traffic enforcement on RCMP radar
Every year RCMP detachments are required to have an Annual Performance Plan (APP) which is developed based on the priorities of the detachment and is developed in consultation with stakeholders and community partners, explained Parke. The two main community priorities selected by the Bonnyville RCMP detachment for this year are crime reduction and community engagement.
One of the strategies the local detachment has deployed to tackle crime reduction involves traffic enforcement, said Parke.
During August, the detachment participated in an initiative that focused on new drivers.
“We like to do education as much as we do enforcement with those (initiatives) and so we partnered up with the town peace officer John Prockiw,” she added.
The detachment planned various check stops throughout month of August in collaboration with community peace officers. Overall, 14 GDL warnings were issued, three impaired driving provincial sanctions were issued due to a zero-alcohol tolerance policy for GDL drivers, two GDL violation tickets and one GDL defect notice were also issued during the initiative.
The RCMP patrols were carried out in the Town and MD of Bonnyville, Glendon and Kehewin.
General Investigation Section
Another way the detachment focuses on crime reduction is with the assistance of the General Investigation Section (GIS) unit. The GIS is a three-member plainclothes unit that is based out of the Bonnyville detachment.
According to Parke, the unit’s main focus is on drug trafficking and drug possession enforcement.
“While the trafficking of drugs is their main focus, there are other offenses that can fall under (the GIS units’) mandate and they're typically serious persons crimes,” she said, adding “Right now, the GIS unit is assisting on a couple of series persons crimes. We have one criminal negligence causing bodily harm, where the victim has been paralyzed... and then we also have another one, an aggravated assault investigation that resulted in the victim becoming permanently maimed.”
The GIS unit is responsible for our Habitual Offender Management Program. Currently, there are 38 prolific offenders and habitual offenders that the GIS unit follows up with on a regular basis.
“That involves but isn't limited to regular communication with our probation office and conducting curfew checks.” Parke explains that, “15 are just straight up prolific offenders. There's an additional six that are on curfew management, an additional five that are on a host of warrants and 12 that are simply wanted on warrants. Those are the offenders that are on our radar at all times.”
For the month of September, there were 163 curfew checks conducted on offenders.
“As a result, four charges were laid when people weren’t home and they were supposed to be,” Parke said. “That program has been going on for a long time and it has been a really good way to keep our finger on the pulse with those offenders and to stay on top of when they need to be picked up and reassessed in the court system.”
Lakeland Crew Unit
Another crime reduction unit known as the Lakeland Crew, is a three-person unit that is considered a regional Lakeland unit because it provides assistance and split its time evenly between the Bonnyville, Cold Lake and Elk Point detachments.
“Their focus is on the criminal rather than the jurisdictional borders that the criminals may find themselves within,” said Parke.
During the Lakeland Crew’s first year of operation, they made 187 arrests, executed 223 warrants and have recovered property valued at just under $1.5 million, laying 607 charges.
“That unit has definitely hit the ground running and they continue to do so and definitely offer great support to the three detachment areas that they assist with,” she adds.
Mental health crisis
Taking a moment to shift the conversation, Parke told Town councillors, “I wanted to touch on the mental health crisis that we're facing. On average, our members at the detachment are dealing with anywhere from 20 to 40 calls per month that in some way have some type of mental health issue related to them.”
Of those calls received by the detachment every month, roughly 50 per cent are within town limits.
“We're not really proposing an avenue to curb this. It's only to acknowledge that this has become a reality of the day to day that police face, not just in Bonnyville by any means, but across the province and realistically across the country," said Parke. “It’s something else that's on our plate that wasn't necessarily to this extent 10 or 20 years ago.”