RCMP spend hundreds of hours tracing dropped 911 calls

Princeton RCMP spend hundreds of hours tracking down dropped 911 calls.

A statistical report released last week shows that abandoned emergency calls comprise the second most frequent call for service in the community.

There were 182 incidents in 2018.

“A lot of it is kids playing with phones,” said detachment commander Sergeant Robert Hughes. “A two-year-old can figure out an iPhone in two minutes.”

Every dropped emergency call must be followed up, he said, by locating the caller either through a registered cell phone or land-line, or attempting to use GPS to approximate the caller’s location.

“Then we have to go to that area and patrol…That file has to stay open [until the caller is located.] If it’s a home we have to go to the home, and we have to check to make sure everyone is okay – whether that’s in Manning Park or Hedley or Tulameen.”

Hughes noted these calls take up valuable police time, and he urged phone users to use caution with automatic dials and screen locks.

Princeton RCMP responded to 2,250 calls for service last year.

Related: Princeton RCMP haul impaired drivers off the road in staggering numbers

According to the report auto theft was up 37 per cent over the previous year, incidents under the Mental Health Act were up 19 per cent and property crime rose by 12 per cent.

On the other hand, violent crimes against person were down 32 per cent, while thefts from vehicles were down 18 per cent. And there were 33 per cent fewer break and enters to businesses than in 2017.

Hughes cautioned that percentages, when applied to small numbers, don’t fairly tell the tale.

For example, there were 26 auto thefts in 2018, compared to 19 the previous year.

However the increase is nearly accounted for by two individuals who are suspected of stealing four vehicles over a matter of days in December, he said.

Similarly under the break and enter ‘other’ category – sheds, garages and outbuildings – there were 18 files in 2018 and 14 in 2017.

“Going up four files in a year could be the work of one person coming into town and spending a long weekend whereas last year they came to town and only spent two days.”

RCMP dealt with 86 cases under the Mental Health Act last year, compared to 72 in 2017.

“The mental health act is what gives us the authority to take someone to hospital and get them treatment,” he explained.

An increase in files could be attributed in part to an improved understanding of mental health issues, he said.

“We are trying to do a better job of assessing of whether it is a mental health issue as opposed to a criminal offense. Maybe we get there and no threats have been made. There has been no assault. Someone is suffering from a mental illness…That being said, because someone is suffering from a mental health issue does not absolve them from criminal responsibility.”

Property crime and thefts from vehicles are often linked to drugs, said Hughes.

“People who who are breaking into people’s houses, breaking into vehicles and stealing money, are usually not doing it for food…It’s a vicious cycle of unemployment, the need for money to support the drug habit and where is that money going to come from?”

Police responded to 224 traffic incidents and 142 accidents in 2018.

There were three fatal accidents, including two in Tulameen. A third death resulted from an accident just east of Princeton on Highway 3 in March, however it was not initially reported as a fatality. The victim died several months later in Saskatchewan.

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