Vanderhoof RCMP say even though the crime rate went up in certain areas last year, the offences were relatively minor.
The biggest driver is substance abuse, said Sgt. Rodney Guthrie.
“Basically, most of the violent offences that we encounter are the same in any detachment – probably have an alcohol involvement. Again, it is also I would say a big social issue,” he said.
Guthrie said most of the intoxicated people being arrested or taken into cells is not a punitive measure, but fuelled by the lack of other services available. There is no extreme cold weather shelter in the district and most shelters will not take severely intoxicated people.
“If there was situation where there was a severely drunk person and we left the person there, something might happen to them or they might do something to somebody else. And then factors like the weather come into play,” he said.
“If somebody is out there in winter and is drunk and cannot stand up on their own, then the risk for them is elevated. The first step would be to find somewhere else for them but a lot of times we don’t have that.”
The alternative to spending a night in jail would be in a sobering centre, which is unavailable in the district.
Meanwhile, assaults went up from 112 to 134, theft went up from 122 to 132, and traffic violations went up from 70 to 91 from 2017 to 2018.
Mischief also went up from 125 to 127. Sometimes inebriated people fall under mischief, said Guthrie.
Arrests made for controlled substances have gone down, from 43 to 36, and may drop further as cannabis is now legal, he said.
The RCMP has been taking proactive measures to check for driving violations and unsafe driving on Highway 16.
“Instead of sitting and waiting, we are actually on the road ourselves looking for violations,” Guthrie said.
“This isn’t just tickets. This would be more like people who are not licensed to drive or vehicles unsafe to be driving. … The charges would be primarily for Highway 16 stuff like speeding, careless driving which is passing improperly on corners or double solids. There is a little bit of aggressive driving, but not road rage.”
In 2018, there were 1215 traffic related charges, most common being speed and failure to wear seat belts, he said. Apart from that 178 oral warnings were given out and 234 orders to fix equipment deficiencies, said Guthrie, noting such issues range from broken windshields, burned headlights or vehicles unsafe to be on the road.
“The message for this time of the year is for people to ensure their vehicles are properly equipped for winter travel including having the proper tires. People should also have a cell phone, warm clothing or blankets in the car in case they get stranded on the highway. Drivers should also keep in mind changing road condition and the potential of hazards such as black ice,” said Guthrie
The Vanderhoof RCMP’s non-emergency line is 250-567-2222.