Supt. Ted De Jager (left), seen here with Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth, said the detachment has four priorities for calls for service, and most calls they receive do not require an officer to immediately attend the scene. He added that a priority one call is if the crime is ongoing and there is a threat to the public, which the officers would respond to immediately. (Western News File photo)

Theft remains top call for RCMP service in Penticton

Supt. Ted De Jager highlighted some of the statistics his detachment has seen

Calls for service and how they are prioritized were the main focus during the quarterly RCMP report to Penticton city council on Tuesday.

Supt. Ted De Jager highlighted some of the statistics the detachment collected from Jan. to July 2019 and noted that since the uniform crime reporting methodology has changed as of this year, it is hard to make direct comparisons with the 2018 statistics without a detailed analysis of each crime type.

READ MORE: Penticton RCMP have busiest detachment in B.C.

According to these newly-compiled stats, auto theft and break and enters are on the rise in the city, and theft, in general, remains the top call for service. So far this year, the detachment has received 10,352 calls for service.

De Jager said he noted that many residents were concerned at a recent public meeting with the RCMP with the amount of time officers are spending in the detachment versus being out on patrol. He clarified that most of his staff attend service calls and that 70 per cent of the calls for service the detachment receives are not criminal.

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Over half of the Penticton detachment is front line, it is very lean in terms of administrative positions. The reality is that my members would like nothing more than to be out on the street, catching bad guys – it’s what they do, it’s what they signed up for and they love doing it,” said De Jager. “Unfortunately with the amount of articulation and legal articulation that is required to arrest and detain someone, it’s a significant portion of their workday.

“And when we’re getting 60 calls or files per shift, unfortunately, our members are literally going from call to call. They try to make a presence in high crime areas or hot spots, for example writing their files there. And it’s typical for summer to see an increase in calls for service, but this summer we have seen a spike.”

Coun. Jake Kimberley had De Jager clarify how calls for service are prioritized and who determines if and when an officer should respond. According to De Jager, there are four classifications for service calls and they are analyzed and prioritized by the dispatcher and their supervisor.

Kimberley noted an example shared by a Penticton resident on Facebook recently, in which they called the RCMP for an officer to attend their residence due to the activities of a suspicious man on a neighbouring property, only to be allegedly told by the dispatcher that all the officers were busy and they’d have to deal with it themselves.

“We have four priorities. Priority four is no attendance, priority three is a call that doesn’t require an immediate response, so someone wants to talk to a police officer but it can wait until tomorrow or for a few hours, which is the majority of our calls,” said De Jager. “Priority two is a police officer will be responding but without lights and sirens, and priority one is code three, so lights and sirens, so that’s anything that’s in progress and anything that’s a potentially violent crime that can cause harm to a human. So a robbery in progress would be a priority one.”

READ MORE: Penticton RCMP said drug addiction driving crime rate

“So the complaint taker will take the call and it’s the first level of triage, then it goes to a dispatcher who also has a senior dispatcher or supervisor that weighs the evidence in the call. It is then dispatched to a member potentially, or held in a cue.”

De Jager said if all on-duty members are at priority calls, the dispatcher will queue the call unless it’s an active criminal offence or there’s harm to the public. He said a suspicious person that is not committing a criminal offence would be queued if members are at priority calls, and that it is possible these queued calls won’t be addressed by an officer for hours or until the next day if there is no threat of violence.

Coun. Katie Robinson questioned whether calls to the dispatcher are recorded and what residents should do to follow up with concerns about their call for service. De Jager said it’s important that people contact him directly with their complaint and the date and time it occurred, rather than air their grievances about the situation on social media because he does not actively monitor those networking sites.

De Jager did have some major wins to share with city council, noting that the Community Active Support Table (CAST) has dealt with over 50 situations involving bringing services and supports to high-risk individuals.

“The Targeted Enforcement Unit (TEU), I think they’re actually trying to challenge me to see if they can get more prolific offenders off the street than is humanly possible, but they’re certainly doing it. The Street Enforcement Unit, within three weeks of their operations working with TEU, have already taken a significant amount of drugs off the street.”

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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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