FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Fort St. John RCMP’s annual report was presented to city council on Monday afternoon.
Inspector Anthony Hansen, detachment commander of the Fort St. John RCMP, discussed crime trends in the city and noted major differences over the last few years, many related to the end of the pandemic and some to major changes in provincial law.
Total criminal code calls in the city and surrounding area dropped from 4422 to 4111 between 2020 and 2021, according to the presentation.
Criminal code offences in the city are divided by what or whom they affect. Calls concerning crimes against persons (or violent crime) trended up slightly from 2020 with 1146 calls last year—an increase of 22 reported incidents.
Crimes concerning property, including but not limited to theft and vandalism, dropped in 2021 as well. There were 1965 calls of this nature last year, down from 2134 in the previous reporting period.
“Other” criminal code calls accounted for 1000 of the calls made to the RCMP last year.
According to Hansen, the pandemic had an effect on the increase and decrease in particular types of calls.
Within the calls for property crime that the RCMP received last year, arson dropped from 19 counts overall to 7. Break and enters, however, rose for businesses but dropped for residences.
Theft is tied to industry in the city, according to Hansen. After industry slowed during the pandemic, its upward climb is paralleled by the upward trend of theft in the region.
“Because industry is ramped up and with it, the thieves have ramped up as well. …The people who are doing these crimes are professional, for lack of a better word. This is what they do. This is their bread and butter,” he said.
The pandemic’s effects were seen in crimes against people as well.
Common assault continued an upward trend to 371 calls last year. Threats uttered also climbed up to 243. There were 103 higher-level assaults (including aggravated assault and assault with a weapon) recorded, 14 counts of assaulting a police officer, and 13 counts of robbery recorded in 2021.
Sexual offences also climbed to 101 calls last year.
Stranger assaults, according to Hansen, were not the reason for the upward trend. Instead, cases of domestic assault, dispute, and violence were more in line with the change.
“We’re not seeing a great deal more stranger assaults. Those went down during the pandemic…but domestic violence assaults definitely increased,” the inspector said.
Calls concerning violence in relationships consisted of spousal assault, of which there were 138 reported incidents; spousal abuse, of which there were 18; other offences (including criminal harassment or stalking, among others) at 112; and spousal disputes without any assault at 225.
Though the numbers did not say so directly, Hansen noted that though calls of this nature were decreasing after hitting high points during the pandemic the calls that were received tended to be more severe.
Calls concerning mental health were also up in 2021 and also tended to be more severe than previous years, according to the presentation. Total calls were up to 349 last year.
The BC Mental Health act allows officers to respond to individuals having a mental health crisis at the request of them or someone concerned about them. Officers can assess and may bring the patient to the hospital to be seen by a physician.
The Car 60 program, a joint venture between the RCMP and Northern Health where a trained mental health professional joins officers for mental health calls, launched in Fort St. John on Monday to provide better resources to individuals in need of this kind of assistance.
Motor vehicle accidents also changed based on the pandemic and relevant restrictions. With fewer drivers on the road, Hansen explained, fewer accidents occur. Three fatal car accidents happened this year. A total of 98 accidents that injured individuals were reported, and 563 that caused damage to the vehicles alone were reported.
Cases of flight from a police officer or dangerous operation of a vehicle were up to 93 in 2021 from 58 but, Hansen explained, this jump seen in the last few years from 2017 was due to a difference in how police chases were reported, rather than an increase in the incident itself.
Impaired driving was down to 283 cases this year, with another 94 in less severe impairment. Drug-impaired driving is becoming increasingly common, while alcohol-impaired driving is remaining at similar levels