Keremeos RCMP suspect unemployment and mental health issues related to COVID-19 have led to an increase in violent crime, including calls for domestic assault.
For the first six months of 2020, calls for service were down six per cent compared to the same period last year, said RCMP Corporal Brian Evans during a report to Village of Keremeos council on Monday, July 20.
However, violent crime, specifically assaults involving a weapon or harm to an individual, increased significantly this year. So far in 2020, police have averaged three calls per month for more serious assaults.
Forty-three per cent of those assault-related calls stemmed from domestic violence, Evans explained.
“Some of those factors that may have changed since last year can be some of the stressers with employment issues, or COVID-19 isolation stresses… domestic disputes or violence generally in society – we’re kind of seeing the effect of that a little bit in Keremeos,” said Evans, adding this was a concern for the detachment.
Police try to work with the victims and the offenders, Evans explained, to ensure the victims are kept safe, and the offenders receive rehabilitation or court-ordered programs to help them so they don’t re-offend.
That being said, police saw numbers decline in other crime categories, among them calls relating to uttering threats and general violent crime.
General property crime declined between 13 and 40 per cent; however, a few sub-categories within this increased.
Break-and-enter crimes to outbuildings and sheds increased from two files to five – an increase of 150 per cent.
“Keep in mind that Keremeos stats are low as it is, so any increase in numbers, percentage wise, looks dramatic,” said Evans.
Calls for theft from vehicles were also up by more than 100 per cent. Forty-one per cent involved unlocked cars. A significant percentage involved theft of items on the outside of the vehicle, including siphoning gas.
“We’re trying to get the message out to the public just to secure their property, whether it’s their vehicle, or their outbuilding, and their homes, to lock their doors and make it a more difficult target for these crimes of opportunity,” said Evans.
“If someone’s walking down the street and checking car doors, if your car door is locked, they’re going to move to the next car.”
In the past six months there have been some staffing changes to the Keremeos RCMP detachment.
A new Indigenous Policing Services position was implemented in May, now in place at the Lower Similkameen Indian Band.
“(It) has been excellent, it has been a great addition to the detachment,” said Evans. “That resource has been in place and working very well with the community, and providing assistance to the detachment as well.”