The latest community policing report for Swift Current shows fewer overall offences, but an increase in specific violations with regard to weapons and drugs.
Sgt. Kelly Guider from the Swift Current RCMP municipal detachment made a presentation about the community policing report for August during a regular City council meeting that took place via video conference, Sept. 21.
There was a total of 437 offences reported and/or committed in the community in August 2020. In comparison, there were 501 offences in August 2019 and a total of 463 offences in August 2018.
This downward trend was also evident in the year-to-date statistics for the January to August period over the last three years. For the initial eight months of 2020 there were 3,245 offences compared to 3,516 in 2019 and 3,322 in 2018.
“I can see that over the last three months and on the three year average that the statistics for reported offences have gone down, which is a great trend for us,” he said. “But I'm always one to look at any increases, and most recently I noticed there has been an increase in August, this last August period over previous years, for weapons offences.”
The report indicates there were five weapons offences in August 2020, but for the past two years in the same month there was only a single offence each time.
The number of weapons offences for the period January to August 2020 was also higher than in the previous two years. There were 38 weapons offences for this eight-month period in 2020 compared to 28 in 2019 and 25 in 2018.
“We've seen a rise in the amount of charges being laid here where we're encountering individuals either through traffic stops or search warrants being executed on residences,” he said.
In these instances the most common charge against individuals will be for being in possession of a weapon that is dangerous to the public.
“So that can encompass a number of different types of weapons” he explained. “It doesn't just have to be a firearm or a knife or a prohibited weapon. Basically anything that can be used as a weapon in the totality of the situation that we're in. And that would be where that rise has come in the weapons related offences.”
According to Sgt. Guider the RCMP's drug enforcement efforts in Swift Current have been really good and this resulted in an increase in the number of drug trafficking charges as well as an in increase in the statistics for possession of illegal substances.
There were eight drug enforcement offences in August 2020 compared to three for the same month in 2019 and nine in 2018. The year-to-date drug offences were also higher than in the previous two years. There were 94 drug offences from January to August 2020. For the same period in 2019 there were 65 offences and 84 in 2018.
“The officers here have done a really good job over the last number of years in identifying who's bringing the drugs in, who's trying to sell them to others, and that also leads us to some of the other offences that are common on this report,” he said.
The police will follow up and do checks on individuals who are charged and then released as part of their court conditions, pending the outcome of a court case, or even as part of their sentence.
“The conditions can include things like being on search conditions, where the police has the right and authority to search them if we catch them out in a vehicle or at a residence for a search,” he said. “They also may be under conditions of a curfew, which allows the public to be safe through the night and not to expect this person to be out in the community maybe for crime.”
There were 27 cases of assault (excluding sexual assault) in August 2020, which was an increase over the 18 assaults for the same month in 2019. Sgt. Guider noted that last year's number of assaults were actually below the five-year average.
“Currently the numbers are back into pretty much the five year average,” he said. “So we haven't seen a spike. It's just that they have gone back up to what was the five year average.”
The report indicates there were two sexual offences in August 2020 compared to three for the same month last year and seven in 2018.
The number of sexual offences for the year to date was similar to last year, but lower than two years ago. There were 25 sexual offences for the eight-month period until the end of August 2020. For the same time period in 2019 there were 24 sexual offences and 32 in 2018.
The number of incidences reported under the Mental Health Act has increased noticeably in 2020. There were 22 incidents in August 2020 compared to 11 for the same month in 2019 and 16 in 2018.
“I was suspicious that we would see the increase since March and there has been a bit of an increase, but a lot of those cases are very similar to other cases that we've had in the past,” he said. “I wouldn't be able to actually attribute it to specifically being related to COVID concerns. It certainly could be related to economic hardship or unemployment.”
He added that less than half of those calls related to the Mental Health Act are for situations within homes.
“A lot of these Mental Health Act calls that we're receiving are people who are out in the public,” he said. “Some of the persons are transient in nature and they've come onto our radar due to their behaviour while they're moving through our community. So we're trying to ensure that we're providing the adequate supports that we can and a lot of those Mental Health Act calls result in us utilizing either the mental health group in town or in the hospital.”
Sgt. Guider referred to the staffing situation at the City detachment during his presentation. He reported that the detachment is currently without a full-time detachment commander, but he is assuming some of those responsibilities until a new commander is appointed.
Staff Sgt. Gary Hodges was the detachment commander until August, when he accepted a new position as a member of the Saskatchewan RCMP South District management team. He is now overseeing the work of all the RCMP detachments in southwest Saskatchewan and his office is located at the Swift Current rural detachment.
The reopening of the schools meant that the City detachment’s school liaison officer, Const. Tony Curti, is back on duty at the high school. He worked as a regular frontline officer at the detachment while the schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Const. Curti was accepted into the national youth officer training program, which is offered by the RCMP National Youth Services. He has successfully completed an online course that covered best practices for youth engagement, mental health, suicide prevention, vaping, dangers of cannabis, child exploitation, and human trafficking.
“He's now working on implementing a lot of this new knowledge,” Sgt. Guider said. “We're hoping as well that he could become a bit of a subject matter expert in regards to the dangers of cannabis, not only for youth, but for all individuals who may not be using for lawful purposes. Abuse can come in any form. So that's one of the things that Tony really wants to strike at the heart of.”