Like so much in the world from 2020 to 2021, COVID-19 had its own significant impacts on local crime and policing.
Sgt. Mike Sargent, spokesperson with the Agassiz RCMP, presented the annual policing report before Harrison Hot Springs council on Monday, April 19.
Overall, calls for service were down about seven per cent across Harrison and the District of Kent.
“It’s not a huge drop, but a drop nonetheless, which is surprising, given that we’ve seen increases in the last five years,” Sargent said.
Priority 1, or 911 emergencies, rose by 11 per cent.
In terms of abiding by health orders related to COVID-19, people in Agassiz-Harrison have been mostly well-behaved, Sargent said.
“We didn’t have to give out too much in the way of tickets,” he added.
In terms of Harrison in particular, there was a slight drop in calls for service from 567 in 2019 to 540 in 2020.
There was a 39 per cent decrease in property crimes from 2019 to 2020. Sargent attribute dthe significant drop to several factors, including COVID-19 and to increased awareness and vigilance in the community.
Traffic remains among the local police’s primary concerns; tickets, however, dropped about 50 per cent from 2019 to 2020. Sargent said 2019 was a recent record high with 1,292 tickets distributed.
He added part of the drop in tickets issued can be attributed to limiting face-to-face interaction due to COVID-19. Some non-contact, alternative deterrents used included flashing lights at speeding motorists as a warning, parking RCMP cars in speeding hotspots and the use of Cst. Scarecrow, a 2-D rendering of a local constable with a radar gun.
Sargent said violent crime is proportionally quite low for Agassiz-Harrison. Domestic violence was on the rise in a number of areas due in part to the stressors of COVID-19, but Sargent reported Agassiz-Harrison statistics remained about the same from the previous year.
Sargent said seasonal policing focused on Harrison from May to July 2020. Every long weekend, RCMP brought in additional enforcement, which lead to additional police presence during every summer weekend in the village.
Sargent said additional impacts to the detachment included a freeze on some crime prevention initiatives and increased costs for personal protection equipment.
Sargent said there’s been consistently high levels of interest in civilian crime prevention; the department recognized another eight new Block Watch areas within Harrison.
“In the last few months, we’ve seen well above-average participation on some of the crime prevention initiatives,” Sargent told Harrison officials. “It encourages involvement and pride in one’s community.”
Looking ahead, Speed Watch has emerged as a new program in the area, and Sargent said there’s been “a huge appetite” to re-establish Citizens on Patrol.