Sgt. Mike Sargent (far left) of the Agassiz RCMP detachment delivers a report to Harrison Hot Springs Village council concerning policing in the Harrison area during their Monday (August 10) meeting. (Adam Louis/Observer)

Property crime sees drop in Harrison area, local RCMP reports

Property theft takes a significant dip while mischief incidents rise

Property crime and service calls have gone down in Harrison, according to local RCMP representatives

During the Harrison Hot Springs Village Council meeting on Monday (August 10), Sgt. Mike Sargent and detachment Superintendent Bryon Massie recapped the 2019 annual report from the Agassiz RCMP detachment. The detachment consists of 14 constables patrolling Harrison, Agassiz, the forest service roads and halfway to Mission and to Hope respectively. There are six First Nations communities in the Agassiz RCMP coverage area.

Sargent said Harrison Hot Springs presents a challenging and fairly unique law enforcement situation. It’s easy to get in and out of the area, and, particularly during high tourism season, it can at times be a target-rich environment for property crime for tourists and residents alike. Those who are incarcerated in recent months are unlikely to stay in for long due to fears of spreading COVID-19.

RELATED: Harrison council approves Rockwell emergency route

Obstacles aside crime property crime saw a drop between 2018 and 2019. Breaking and entering residences took a big drop from 13 occurrences to only two.

“That’s great for us,” Sargent told council. “There’s nothing more intrusive than someone breaking into your house and taking sentimental items. That’s a huge psychological effect on people, and anything we can do to reduce that is a good thing.”

Theft from motor vehicles saw an even more drastic reduction from 40 incidents to 19. Bike theft also fell slightly from six to four.

Other areas of crime saw increases, mostly revolving around mischief, rising from 13 to 24. Autho theft went up from 11 to 17 and breaking and entering for businesses and “other” went up slightly from four to six incidents each.

The calls for service in the Harrison area saw a slight decrease; the area is still subject to spikes of activity, Sargent said, but this is not uncommon in similar communities.

RELATED: Harrison council approves letter of support to stop the quarry

Traffic enforcement remains a big concern for the area, but Sargent credits a more proactive approach to enforcement for numbers of tickets distributed quadrupling from 2018 to 2019. In 2018, 326 tickets were written, and in 2019, 1,292 were distribted. Written warnings rose from 213 to 689 and impared driving investigatins also doubled from 20 to 41.

The Agassiz-Harrison area will soon be home to four “Cst. Scarecrows,” which are metal cutouts of RCMP officers with radar guns that, for as simple as they are, have proven effective at reducing speed in other communities in the Lower Mainland. Sargent indicated there has been a good deal of local interest in the Harrison area concerning Speed Watch volunteers.

Sargent stressed the continued need for residents to stay vigilant and report suspicious activity when it’s seen.

“If we don’t hear about it, we don’t know that it’s happened,” Sargent said.

In other council business, Mayor Leo Facio said local businesses and accommodations have been “grateful and surprised” by the business that’s coming back to Harrison Hot Springs.

The council unanimously supported a draft of the Rural B.C. COVID-19 Tourism Rebuilding Proposal. Mayors and staff from 14 B.C. resort municipalities are in the process of creating a rebuilding plan.

The council received a report from the first season of Starlight Skating Rink’s operations. Though popular among residents and tourists, it came up at a net loss of about $3,800 after its first season closed. Village staff attributed this loss to a drop in visitorship following the the end of the Lights by the Lake Festival. Family Day and Valentines Day were expected to draw a bigger crowd as well, but the turnout wasn’t high. To cut expenses for next year, concessions will be cut further, only running during the Lights by the Lake Festival and other off-season events.

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