Calls for police service were up by 400 in Trail and Greater Area last year, but 2016 crime statistics are actually down from the previous year.
How can that be?
Local RCMP responded to 5,757 incidents in 2016 compared to 5,366 in 2015. But the majority of those calls were for lesser offences which could be anything from a barking dog complaint to mischief of property or a person stranded in a vehicle. Police still have to respond and file a report, but the acts are not defined under the Criminal Code of Canada, which does include serious crimes such as assault, sexual offences, robbery and auto theft.
“A lot of those calls are for service, anything that isn’t reported as criminal matter,” RCMP Sgt. Darren Oelke clarified. “Our members are still having to go out there and deal with the files, but they are not having as many Criminal Code reported offences.”
The Greater Trail detachment officer spoke with city council on Monday during a review of the area’s fourth quarter crime statistics. While fewer crimes such as break and enters were reported and impaired driving chargers were down, there was one category that continued to rise all year as it did in 2015. Those were calls were related to mental health.
Adding up data provided in the RCMP quarterly reports, calls related to mental health exceeded 220 last year compared to approximately 165 in 2015.
“We haven’t been keeping stats for long, we are just trying to get a basis of how much of the work we do involves mental health, ” Sgt. Oelke told the Trail Times. “But I can say in my service, having done considerable time in Castlegar, Nelson, Trail and Prince George, Trail probably has the highest that I’ve seen in terms of volume of calls.”
(Oelke clarified that he worked in the RCMP district office in Nelson, not with the municipal police force)
Some days Trail police are called up to six times to deal with mental-health related situations. Those incidents can vary from a panhandling complaint to a Code White (threat of violence) in the Daly Pavilion, or community apprehension under the Mental Health Act if a person is suicidal, for example.
After working in the Trail area for three years, Oelke emphasized that those respective calls often have a positive outcome.
“This is not all negative, there are a lot of very positive files,” he said. “There’s been a great increase in cooperation, working together, with Trail Mental Health, CDS (Career Development Services) and the Daly Pavilion staff,” Oelke continued. “I’ve been here since 2014 … and I think working together has really improved between those different services.”
The RCMP are often first responders to a mental health related incident, but the calls usually wind up not being a police matter per se.
“It could be something as simple as a call for a panhandler outside a store, or a call of a break and enter, and when we get there, we determine someone is in a mental health crisis,” Oelke explained. “It’s a very large spectrum of calls, and we deal with so many in the West Kootenay area. It helps the support services in town, that’s kind of why we keep track, to help Trail Mental Health and CDS and other agencies that are trying to get support and funding for their programs … it’s complex.”
Oelke pointed out that officers do have mental health training that aids in identifying related conditions, but all follow up is left to the mental health experts, which police will help the person connect with.
“Often times we are on the scene and often times it’s not a police matter,” he said. “The person could be better served with help looking for housing (for example),” he said. “So getting them down to CDS to get things going with Sheila (Sheila Adcock,CDS program coordinator) or getting them in touch with a worker at Trail Mental Health if they are off their meds,” he added.
“I think it’s all part of the big picture, of working together with other agencies out there and doing a better job for the community.”