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RCMP boss says joint project with local bylaw enforcement officers worked great all summer
A joint effort between the RCMP and the town’s bylaw enforcement officers paid big dividends by reducing crime and the number of people charged with criminal offences this past summer, said Osoyoos detachment commander Sgt. Kevin Schur in a presentation to Town of Osoyoos council Monday.
“It was a very successful summer,” said Schur, noting crime statistics from early June to mid-September showed a significant decrease in most categories.
A new program where bylaw enforcement officers were given the responsibility of issuing municipal infraction tickets for incidents on local beaches allowed RCMP officers to dedicate more of their time to more serious infractions, said Schur.
While the number of property offences decreased by more than 10 per cent, the number of personal offences charges increased by 12 per cent in large part because officers had more time to complete investigations, he said.
“Our officers didn’t have to be out on the beach … and officers then had the time to complete investigations,” said Schur, noting the amount of serious assault charges increased from five to 20 this past summer as compared to the previous year.
Drug charges were down 70 per cent from the previous year and this was “because we had such a large police presence” in town, he said.
There wasn’t a single serious incident relating to large numbers of transients gathering on local beaches and creating noise and public intoxication complaints, said Schur.
“There wasn’t any big incident on any of our beaches as there have been in past years,” he said. “There were no major impaired driving incidents … it was probably the best summer since I have been here.”
Impaired driving investigations were down more than 30 per cent, despite the fact there were regular spot-checks throughout the summer, he said.
A total of 39 driving prohibition notices were filed throughout the summer, which shows impaired driving remains a problem in this community during the peak tourist season, even though the numbers are down significantly, he said.
The vast majority of drinking and driving charges filed were against tourists with very few charges filed against local residents, he said.
Osoyoos had four times the number of impaired driving investigations, per capita, as compared to the City of Penticton, he said.
“Our officers were out there checking a lot of vehicles,” he said.
Schur reiterated the latest statistics would not have been accomplished without the new joint working relationship between the RCMP and bylaw enforcement officers.
Mayor Stu Wells said he received an email from a local business owner who complimented police and bylaw enforcement for doing an outstanding job this past summer.
“He said the whole tone of the downtown and on our local beaches had changed,” said Wells. “Having the RCMP and bylaw working together on all our issues worked so well.
“When you get that kind of positive feedback … that’s what it’s all about.”
RCMP officers conducted 15 boat patrols during this time period and hope to increase this number next summer, said Schur.
RCMP officers were involved in two rescues over the summer and having good equipment and easy access to the town’s marina resulted in positive outcomes during both incidents, he said.
The only bit of bad news was that the provincial government took away a small chunk of funding that was traditionally forwarded to the Osoyoos detachment to bring in extra officers to handle the huge crowds that gather in this community for the Canada Day holiday weekend, said Schur.
He didn’t expect that funding to be reduced and had to make alterations to his budget because of the cut, he said.
Some of the additional season funding that has been provided by the town to increase police presence during the busy summer months was used to cover this deficit, said Schur.
The roughly $7,000 in additional funding provided by the town was split to bring in more officers, most who were working on days off, to work extra hours on the Canada Day and August 1 Civic holiday weekends, he said.
Members of town council unanimously agreed to send a letter to the provincial government stating their objection to this funding being cut.
Resort municipalities like Osoyoos have received this funding for many years as the province recognized extra officers would have to be hired in these communities and to cut the funding without any explanation doesn’t seem fair, said Wells.
The local detachment used to be able to bring in extra officers who were off duty from Oliver when Osoyoos and Oliver ran as a duel detachment, but that luxury no longer exists since the detachments began operating separately last year, said Schur.