Sunshine Coast RCMP detachment commander Staff Sgt. Poppy Hallam says their ongoing investigations into the spike in property crime in the Sechelt area point to “two different sets of persons.”
There was an increase of nearly 200 per cent in crimes like business break-ins in July, August and September.
Hallam made the comments during an overview of the detachment’s strategic plan at the Oct. 2 Sechelt council meeting.
Hallam said to protect the integrity of the investigation she’s not able to offer many details publicly, but described the suspects as local residents involved in a “property-crime ring.”
“We have identified who we believe are responsible, but that’s about all I can say for now,” she said.
Hallam said the strategic plan’s crime reduction initiatives include continuing with more street checks, curfew checks and foot patrols in the downtown core and high-crime areas. “We’re really trying to get our visibility up,” she said, noting that she’s personally taken on some patrol shifts as part of the effort.
The detachment has also been working closely with the district and its bylaw department.
Hallam said local members have been working a lot of overtime to fill gaps when officers are off on parental or medical leave – but she’s also in the process of recruiting a new corporal with expertise in drug investigations and intelligence gathering.
Hallam also highlighted some “resource challenges externally,” including with E-Comm, the dispatch centre for police, fire and ambulance, which is having trouble responding quickly to calls to the non-emergency line.
“That is unfortunately a problem for us on the Coast,” she said.
E-Comm acknowledged the problem this week. “We’re recruiting more call takers to help with call volumes and we’re working on new processes to enhance non-emergency call-answer service,” E-Comm said in an Oct. 2 release. “Our goal is to answer more of the calls we receive faster and to provide the most responsive service we can for our police partners and for you.”
Hallam said wait times at Sechelt Hospital, especially for mental health patients brought in by RCMP members, because the hospital doesn’t have enough staff on hand or beds available, can also tie up police resources.
“When other partners have challenges with resources it often falls back on us,” she told council.
Appearing on Eastlink Community TV’s talk to your local government Oct. 3, Sunshine Coast Regional District chair Lori Pratt said the issue of RCMP resources on the Coast was raised by her, Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers and Gibsons Mayor Bill Beamish at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention.
Pratt had organized a meeting with officials from the public safety ministry, which she said was very positive. “Hopefully we’ll continue those conversations and be able to support Staff. Sgt. Hallam,” Pratt said.