ST. PAUL - Staff Sgt. Greg Stannard with the St. Paul RCMP detachment was on hand during the July 12 Town of St. Paul council meeting to offer and update on statistics and issues being seen withing the municipality.
When comparing the first six months of the year to previous years' statistics, "there's not a whole lot of change," said Stannard. Some areas see change for the better, while others see change for the worse.
One issue the stood out was the theft of motor vehicles, and how thefts have increased by quite a bit in some areas. Also, although the statistics don't show a big increase in theft and break and enters, "We're noticing there seems to be a lot more break and enters and theft," said Stannard.
He said there have been 214 thefts of different kinds overall in the last half year within the town. Because of that, RCMP members are working on a few initiatives and exploring different ways to catch some of the people committing the thefts.
"Without giving away all of our secrets," there is some work taking place, said Stannard.
Hate, discrimination and racism
Stannard also spoke about how Sgt. Nolan, who previously worked out of the Saddle Lake detachment but is now back working in St. Paul, has been involved in some specific initiatives, such as taking part in sessions about responding to hate, discrimination and racism. Stannard said he agreed with a statement Nolan recently made to him, saying "it's a good start that people are sitting and talking."
On a similar topic, Stannard said there have been a few issues seen at University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills. The building that houses UnBQ is a former residential school, and is located a few miles outside of St. Paul.
He noted there have been some potential threats made through social media toward the institution, and the university did hire its own security.
Stannard said the local detachment is also taking a good look at church and church facilities in the area. St. Paul itself has 25 churches and church facilities, he noted. RCMP members are more aware and vigilant when patrolling, due to issues and vandalism being seen across the country.
"The best we can do is keep watching," said Stannard, adding, "We're well aware of the big story behind all of this."
Stannard also explained that earlier in the day, he had a count done on the number of calls received in the last 365 days by the 10 constables that work in the Town of St. Paul. That number came to 6,331.
"It's a lot."
He noted that calls to the other communities the detachment oversees, which includes Saddle Lake, Goodfish (Whitefish) Lake and the County of St. Paul, is about 5,500. Stannard said he shakes his head at the high rate, commending the officers throughout the area for the "phenomenal work" they do.
According to K Division statistics, the St. Paul municipal detachment averages 190.1 criminal code cases per member, the average is 86 for similar sized municipalities.
Mayor Maureen Miller acknowledged that the Town of St. Paul needs to be cognizant of the workload RCMP officers face, and also needs to be prepared for any increases that might be needed.
Stannard said the detachment always wants to do the best it can with what it has, first. But, he does anticipate increasing the number of RCMP members by one for the Town and one for the rest of the region in the future. He noted that the increases would likely happen within a five-year timeframe, but those numbers can change if trends change - for the better or worse.
Coun. Nathan Taylor spoke to some of the statistics presented and acknowledged that while property crimes and thefts are definitely hot topics in the community, his concern was with the fact that domestic abuse calls were up 100 per cent over the past five years.
He noted that people aren't "advertising" when they are abused, and neither are their neighbours, while property crime is often talked about and experiences are shared more openly.
"This (number) is shocking to me," said Taylor. Personally, Taylor said he understands the importance of RCMP members responding to a domestic call when someone is in danger, over a missing vehicle where no one is at risk.
"But I think the community needs to understand more."
Stannard noted there may be reasons for the increase in calls, such as a change in reporting, and possibly the fact that more people are coming forward when experiencing abuse. He noted that the community has a lot of good help for people facing domestic abuse. Stannard said he felt there should be harsher penalties for people who are found guilty of domestic abuse, but that is a justice system piece, and not RCMP.
He also noted that due to the pandemic, some support services have been missing, such as addictions counselors visiting people in cells, but those services will be returning in the near future.
Stannard also agreed with Taylor, stating the RCMP will prioritize the safety of people over things such as a stolen vehicle. "Things are things. It's hard when it's your things," said Stannard, but safety of people are the priority.