Penticton’s pockets need to hang up the phone.
Insp. Brad Haugli detailed for city council last week the Penticton RCMP’s third-quarter report of calls for service, which illustrates what types of crimes and where are occupying the time of investigators.
But one of the biggest sources of frustration that has grown exponentially was the phenomenon of 911 hang-ups — also known as “pocket dialing.” There were 470 false emergency calls in the last quarter, Haugli said, adding that figure is up 173 per cent from the same time last year.
“We as police have to investigate those as thoroughly as we can each time,” he said. “They take up a significant amount of time. Fortunately they’re most often a false alarm.”
The remainder of Haugli’s report did not include as drastic an increase with figures, although the severity of some crimes gave investigators pause.
Homicides are up this year, with two reported in 2011 to date — which is one more than in 2010.
Between July 1 and Sept. 30, charges were sent to Crown counsel relating to 95 breaches of court orders, 57 assaults, 24 thefts, 20 break and enters and 12 sex assaults.
There was a 14-per-cent decrease in break-and-enters, and reports of stolen vehicles are down 39 per cent from their 2008 high.
Haugli said they were making strides in nabbing vehicles thieves as a result of the bait car program, which is also netting several prolific and repeat offenders.
“This year we had the same offender steal a bait vehicle twice,” he told council.
Next on the horizon, he said, would be the bait reel program to target metal theft given high commodity prices.
“We now have the ability to plant copper reels,” he said, noting they are outfitted with GPS monitors that can be activated once stolen.
The city and police signed an understanding in May regarding the three areas of importnace that would be considered priority issues: communications and community relations, traffic safety as well as drug and alcohol abuse.
Drug enforcement has been stepped up and yielded 77 drug offences. Twenty-one of those pertained to drug trafficking, including one file that saw police pull $450,000 worth of illicit drugs off the streets. A total of 25 trafficking charges were forwarded to Crown prosecutors during the third quarter.
Haugli explained that members are trying to assist residents who they come into frequent contact with. One person who had 90 negative interactions with police in the downtown area was identified as struggling with alcohol addiction problems. Haugli said members found a treatment facility in Alberta willing to accommodate the individual.
The individual has an opportunity to return to the community as a functioning and contributing member of society, he said, with the understanding that information has been compiled on the individual’s interactions with police to forward to court should the need arise.
Mayor Dan Ashton praised Haugli for the report. “It’s been a great change since you arrived here.”