Break and enter numbers drop in 2020

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Hinton’s RCMP detachment continues to focus on decreasing break and enters after seeing a five year high in 2019.

“We all felt within the RCMP detachment that we needed to focus and do a better job with reducing the break and enters that are occurring in this area,” said Chris Murphy, Hinton RCMP staff sergeant during a presentation at the regular council meeting on June 16.

The specific goal is to reduce break and enters by seven per cent as compared to 2019. Additionally, the local RCMP wants to increase the clearance rate by 26 per cent, meaning that they want to increase solving these crimes and holding individuals accountable.

Murphy also plans to increase the number of search warrants compared to past years and decrease traffic fatalities, injuries, and property damage collisions in Hinton. 

Numbers of crime in 2019 were high across the board when Murphy presented at the town hall earlier this year.

This year, from Jan. 1 to May 31, there has been a 37 per cent decrease in persons crimes, a 13 per cent decrease of property crime, a 58 per cent decrease in other criminal code offences, and a 59 per cent decrease in break and enters, which resulted in 22 fewer incidents. Theft under $5,000 dropped by 14 per cent, with 15 fewer incidents, while theft from motor vehicles remains similar to previous years.

“Going into COVID-19 in March, we expected to see certain areas spike. Family violence related calls was one concern we had initially. I can tell you I’m pretty proud of Hinton and the residents here because our community did fairly well compared to other communities in a lot of areas,” Murphy said.

The expected increases didn’t occur for a number of reasons, Murphy said, due to supports in place in Hinton, and people staying home during the pandemic, reducing the opportunity for offences.

Unfortunately, in the last three weeks, numbers of crime have begun to climb again.

“Usually when the economy is struggling, we in the policing world see an increase across the board because that relates to a lot more stress for a lot more people, which would relate to potentially addictions, mental health, and then property crime and potentially persons crime,” Murphy said.

Within the last seven days, the RCMP received 96 calls for service, which is an increase compared to some periods of 60 calls in the earlier pandemic months.

This year, until June 9, 2020, RCMP responded to 1842 complaints, while in 2019 they responded to 2250 calls.

“This is very important to me and to the RCMP that we are prepared for a potential increase and that the members are able to respond to any increases we do see,” Murphy said.

Throughout the pandemic, members made sure they were prepared for any other emergency.

Two Hinton RCMP members were tested for COVID-19 and both received negative results.

Initially the RCMP had leave restrictions where no members of the RCMP could have any leave whatsoever during the pandemic, which has recently been lifted in June.

The Hinton detachment remains closed to public, but RCMP services have not stopped.

There was no plan for COVID-19 but the detachment quickly came up with policies and procedures to handle the emergency.

Murphy added that it was very positive moving into the pandemic and having all municipal positions filled within the detachment and be able to respond accordingly. 

Two transfers are occurring this summer, one replacement will move from the Stony Plain and Spruce Grove area and another from BC later this summer.

“There may be a period of time where I’m running a single vacancy, however the positive is that the replacement has already been identified,” Murphy said.

The habitual management program continues to operate with mixed response over the past few years, Murphy added. 

Two individuals in the program right now are both complying with their conditions and seeking assistance to stop underlying issues to their offending behaviour. 

“For each one it’s a little bit different, for some it may be housing, it may be employment, it may be addictions, it may be mental health. Each individual is a bit different and we’re making sure referrals are made and the person is receiving the help that they require,” Murphy said.

Crime mapping continues to be a tool for RCMP members to identify which areas in town are crime hotspots.

Murphy said they are seeing some success by putting resources in the right places at the right time.

RCMP Bike patrols have also started this year and foot patrols will increase.

Murphy stated that foot patrols help recover bikes in strategic locations and that one member has taken the initiative to record serial numbers via an app that will be introduced to Hinton. 

After Coun. Trevor Haas asked about stolen bikes, Murphy said there has been some success in recovering two stolen bikes, one being the bike of Masaaki Yoshino, the Japanese cyclist who was travelling through Hinton during a long North America cycle journey, as well as one from a Jasper biker.

Another tool for the RCMP to reduce crime is public education and communication, which allows RCMP to work with the community to make crimes more difficult to commit.

Residents continue to call in about suspicious vehicles and persons, which helps RCMP members keep streets safer.

The detachment began consulting the community in January through presentations, a town hall meeting and other initiatives.

A lot of feedback received by the RCMP surrounded property crime, which was similar to years past, Murphy said.

Specifically individuals were concerned about break and enters, into a house or business. 

Another concern by the public was related to traffic, usually speeding or distracted driving.

Community consultation is one of the RCMP’s priorities and Murphy added that residents continue being involved in the community.

Consultation initiatives such as coffee with a cop will continue but may look different, Murphy said.

Hinton’s RCMP plans to host another town hall virtually in the fall.

“This has been piloted at another detachment and they had really good results. It seemed people were more willing to participate in something when they didn’t actually have to come to a venue outside of their house,” Murphy said.

A date for this public town hall will be announced by the RCMP later.