Impaired drivers getting caught in Kent

Number of charges on the rise due to policing changes, says RCMP

Crime statistics were released this summer for communities across Canada, detailing changes in everything from thefts to impaired driving charges to violent crimes.

And in Agassiz and Harrison, it would seem that there are certainly some trends. Violent crimes and thefts appear to be on the decline, while impaired driving seem to be on the rise. The stats are now available online through Statistics Canada, and users can manipulate the CANSIM table to see trends in any sort of crime.

In the Agassiz/Harrison area  37 criminal code traffic violation incidents are on record in 2013. Of those, 36 incidents were related to impaired driving and 16 adults were charged. At first glance, it seems to be part of a five year trend rather than a blip on the radar; there were only 21 incidents in 2009. These violations include everything from impaired driving charges to failure to provide a blood sample.

But Agassiz RCMP’s Staff Sgt. Stuart Falebrinza said while those numbers are accurate, they don’t mean drinking and driving are on the rise. More accurately, the numbers reflect the way police are dealing with impaired drivers now compared to just a few years ago.

“We have more effective means of dealing with impaired driving,” he said. Immediate roadside prohibition has increased the successful charges, rather than dragging through the courts.

“What happens now is if we stop you today and you blow a fail, you’re automatically suspended,” he said.

The same is true for crime statistics.

Manipulating the same CANSIM table, the Observer searched for criminal code violations (excluding traffic). These numbers include the entire area served by the Agassiz RCMP, including Mountain and Kent Institutions. Unlike the increased impaired driving charges, criminal charges are on the decline in this area.

Violations dropped in 2012 (-16.75 percent) and 2013 (a further -8.04 percent). Those drops aren’s so dramatic when Agassiz’s smaller population is taken into account.

Last year, CANSIM reports there were 341 incidents with 50 people charged, a number that Falebrinza feels is a bit lower than what they’re dealing with. Of those 50 people charged, six were youth under 18.

By comparison, over five last five years, 2011 saw the most incidents (434), most charged (56 people) but only two youth charged.

Again, Falebrinza said the reduced crime statistics are a direct result of more a targetted approach by RCMP.

“What we’ve done is we’ve really upped our ante,” he said. “We’ve utilized our crime reduction program using a crime analyst out of Chilliwack and we really watch for trends now.”

That means if people are reporting thefts from McKay Ave., or suspicious activity on the beach, they will immediately put their resources into that area.

“Instead of letting it go for a month or two months, we try to keep on top of where crime is occurring,” Falebrinza said. “We really want to nip it in the bud.”

Agassiz and Harrison residents are good at informing the local police of suspicious activity, he added, and every call helps to pinpoint where trouble is centralized. And often, that’s exactly how they catch prolific offenders.

“That’s another program we’re using,” he said. “If they’re causing a lot of trouble, we’re all over them.”

While reporting suspicious activity helps them catch the criminals, Falebrinza said he’s surprised how many people leave themselves open to crime. On Saturday in Harrison, RCMP left reminders for people who left their car unlocked or valuables in sight.

Violent crime rates have remained steady, with minor fluctuations in the number of incidents, people charged, and youth involved over the last three years.  Of the total criminal code violations listed above, 101 of those incidents included violent crimes in 2013. Those incidents led to 26 people being charged, including three youth.

To see the statistics, visit Stats Canada through this link.

news@ahobserver.com

@AgassizEditor (Twitter)

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