At the same time saying police have “zero tolerance” for criminal behaviour, RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager feels there is a greater social component needed to deal with the region’s more “vulnerable” population.
“Forty per cent is our number. That’s the number of calls we go to across the region where police intervention can result in a charge, so that means that in 60 per cent the police are not the solution,” said De Jager. “It doesn’t mean we’re not involved but there are times where another agency would be much more appropriate to find a solution to that.”
Case in point, he referenced a man in Penticton who had mental health and addiction issues and was causing a significant amount of property damage.
“We can arrest him all day long but that’s not going to stop him. He’s going to be out, and that’s not a criticism of the courts that’s Canada. We do not incarcerate people if we can find other solutions,” he said.
Police working with the courts and Interior Health were able to get the individual help preventing further property crime by him.
And that, said De Jager, is exactly what will happen when the new Community Active Support Table (CAST) is rolled out in the coming weeks.
CAST is described as a pro-active, multi-agency approach to identifying risks in the community before they occur.
The group has already had one meeting after the City of Penticton received a $50,000 grant from the B.C. Office of Crime Reduction and Gang Outreach.
It is made up of representatives from the social services ministry, Interior Health and others.
“The intent is to start to look at some of the people that are at an acutely elevated risk, the most vulnerable in our community which are are often people you see often on the street,” said De Jager, who was involved in similar programs at other detachments. “They are people who could have addictions or mental health issues and these are people who are going into a crime pattern.”
Right now the police are identifying these people for referral when CAST is operational.
“Then we can actually get them into the treatment or the housing they need to be at and, of course, we want to ensure they’re safe as well and also that they aren’t causing social concerns in the community,” he said. “This notion that there’s this roving pack of homeless people going from community to community just isn’t true.
“Homelessness isn’t a crime. The fact they are homeless, addicted, or they have mental health issues, none of those are crimes so the police bringing resolution to that is not going to have the results that we want as a community. (It) doesn’t mean you’re not accountable. You have a responsibility to your community and we will hold you to that.”
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