Sgt. Mike Sargent shares what he saw in the Agassiz RCMP detachment area in 2020. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

Sgt. Mike Sargent shares what he saw in the Agassiz RCMP detachment area in 2020. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

Agassiz RCMP saw fewer calls, lower property crime in 2020

Investigations into sex offences increased due to more people reporting past assaults

The Agassiz RCMP saw a significant decrease in property crime over the course of last year, as well as an overall reduction in the number of calls.

Calls for Service

In 2020, the Agassiz RCMP responded to 4,014 calls for service, a decrease of seven per cent over 2019. Of those 4,014 calls, 149 of them were priority one calls, or the calls that Sgt. Mike Sargent said require a “lights and sirens response.”

The priority one calls, which include everything from car accidents to in-progress break-and-enters, were down 12 per cent from the previous year.

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The Agassiz RCMP covers a large area, including the District of Kent, the Village of Harrison Hot Springs, Popkum, several Indigenous communities, and rural areas around Agassiz.

The past year saw about 44 per cent of the calls coming from the District of Kent, with 13 per cent coming from Harrison, 20 per cent coming from the Indigenous communities, 18 per cent coming from Popkum and five per cent from the remaining rural areas.

Sargent said this distribution is fairly typical, and that call volume was down across the Agassiz RCMP’s policing area.

“It’s consistent throughout our whole policing area, which is good to see,” Sargent said.

“We did start off more Block Watch (programs) in different areas this past year … so there’s more community involvement, more people looking to ensure the safety of the community.”

For both general and priority one calls, 2019 saw the highest amount in the last five years.

Property Crime

This was true for property crime as well, which went from 217 instances in 2015 to 378 instances in 2019.

However, 2020 only saw 191 instances of property crime — a 49 per cent reduction.

RELATED: Property crime sees drop in Harrison area, local RCMP reports

The largest reductions in crime were in break-and-enters.

There were 16 break-and-enters in local businesses (59 per cent decrease from 2019), 26 break-and-enters in homes (a 49 per cent decrease) and 18 other break-and-enters (a 65 per cent decrease).

There was also a 53 per cent reduction in thefts from vehicles, with only 66 instances in 2020 compared to 140 in 2019.

Auto thefts went down 33 per cent, to 57 instances in 2020, and bike thefts were also down 33 per cent, to eight instances.

Sargent said these changes were likely due to COVID-19.

“Some of our more property crime targeted areas, like the Bridal Falls Provincial Park, weren’t open for most of the time and didn’t draw the huge crowds,” Sargent said. “So there’s a reduction in numbers because of that.”

Firearm Seizures

He also said the RCMP members had been more diligent with patrols in 2020. These patrols partly led to a massive increase in the number of firearms the Agassiz RCMP seized last year.

The local detachment seized 98 firearms in 2020, up from 39 in 2019.

“It speaks to the efforts of the members of the detachment and going that extra step in some of these investigations,” Sargent said.

Firearms are often seized during arrests, mental health calls for the safety of the individual, or as part of a domestic violence call.

“We made a big difference in that regard, getting some of those guns off the street, a lot of which are stolen or not registered,” Sargent said.

Sex Offences

Also going up in 2020 was the number of sex offences investigated by the Agassiz RCMP.

In 2020, the Agassiz RCMP investigated 25 sex offences, a 39 per cent increase from 2019 and the highest number since 2016.

According to Sargent, this was largely because of a movement from Indigenous communities to shed light on past traumas, which meant that many of the cases brought to the detachment were historical.

“Our big thing is encouraging people to come forward so we can do the investigation,” Sargent said.

“Because they’ve been subject to a traumatic incident in the past, there is help, there are resources available out there to help people deal with that instead of keeping it buried and letting it get worse.”

Crimes Against Persons

On the whole, crimes against persons increased 13 per cent in 2020. This includes sex offences, but also assault, harassment and uttering threats.

Many of the crimes against persons investigated by the Agassiz RCMP are from the local prisons, including the maximum-security Kent Institution, the medium-security Mountain Institution and Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village, Sargent said.

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There were 170 cases of assault in 2020, up 15 per cent from 2019, and 41 cases of harassment, up 14 per cent. The number of investigations around uttering threats was close to the same as it was in 2019, with 294 instances.

When police are called for people uttering threats, it is often around neighbour disputes or threats against staff and inmates in the prisons.

It can also be connected to domestic violence, which saw a four per cent increase in 2020.

Domestic Violence

Many organizations have said they’ve noticed an spike in the number of domestic violence calls due to COVID-19, including Vancouver’s Battered Women’s Support Services, which saw double the number of calls for support in March 2020 as it did in February 2020.

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Sargent said he hadn’t seen that same spike in the Agassiz area.

In 2020, there were 76 instances of domestic violence reported to the police, compared to 73 in both 2018 and 2019.

However, this is down significantly from 2016, when there was 139 cases of domestic violence reported to the police.

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