As of September 2016, Vanderhoof’s local RCMP detachment exceeded their yearly goals of impaired driving charges by 200 per cent. Numbers include both criminal code charges and immediate roadside prohibitions.
Rather than there being more impaired drivers on the road this year, detachment commander Sgt. Svend Nielsen attributes the higher numbers to the proactive work of the police.
“Investigations have improved along with our members’ knowledge, allowing them to recognize drivers better and quicker than we used to,” Nielsen said, adding that officers continue to exceed goals despite the target number of charges being 20 per cent higher than last year. “It’s impressive to see the sharp increase, especially with our detachment comprised of mostly junior officers and previously being short-staffed.”
Active enforcement included spot checks and road blocks, but general patrols and observations by officers yielded more success. No minimum numbers are required for police officers’ each shift, Nielsen said.
In 2015, Vanderhoof’s Cst. Justine Ramsay pulled 13 impaired drivers off the road to join the RCMP’s Alexa’s Team, which recognizes police officers across B.C. for their commitment to fight drinking and driving in the province.
The program, created in 2009, is a partnership between the Middelaer family, BCAA Road Safety Foundation and ICBC — in honour of four-year-old Alexa Middelaer who was killed by an alcohol-impaired driver in Delta in 2008. This year so far, another Vanderhoof police officer is close to meeting the required goal to be part of Alexa’s Team.
Ramsay, in her third year as part of the RCMP, is also the only certified drug recognition expert in the area, covering Vanderhoof as well as Burns Lake, Fort St. James, and Prince George. Her expertise lies in the ability to recognize an individual’s symptoms of drugs use based on behaviour. Along with the detachment’s corporals who have a strong background in impaired driving investigations, Ramsay is one of the detachment’s three intoximeter operators, Nielsen said.
For overall traffic enforcement this year, the police has a target of about 400 violation tickets — a 10-per-cent increase from the previous year. The goal is already met by the end of November, four months until the financial year ends in March. The percentage increase for target numbers were lower than the previous year, as the RCMP made steep improvement in 2015 — traffic-related charges increase by over 50 per cent from 2014, Nielsen said.
“We take road safety seriously,” he said. “To improve these numbers is to improve the safety of the community.”