New stats to aid crime fight

John K. White

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP Supt. Shawna Baher delivered her quarterly review of policing at Vernon City Council on Monday.

While it was the usual detailed analysis of data and strategy, she was also forced to defend her work to two councillors who have made fighting street-entrenched crime a primary focus over the last few months.

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Baher managed to answer two handfuls of questions from Coun. Scott Anderson after her presentation, including some technically related to the inner workings of Provincial Court, and a few from Coun. Kari Gares.

"I know it's frustrating for people," Baher said. "I'll go on social media sites and see comments. I just want you to know that our members are out there checking people on bicycles. Our members are out there checking people in Linear Park with shopping carts. They are out there at all times. You might not see that, but I can guarantee that it's happening."

They're also dealing with open (drug) use in public when they see it. In fact, Baher said she goes out to deal with it when she's on duty.

Some of the questions from Anderson came from an apparent increase of criminal activity in the stats.

An example were increases in bike thefts and other thefts under $5,000. Baher noted that part of that comes from work to have the public report all thefts to better track activity.

"We've been looking at an increase in theft of bicycles and the theft of propane tanks. Why? Because we've asked people to report them. There were a lot of bicycle thefts in the last quarter, but RCMP we're not finding them in Vernon," Baher said.

"Now, it seems, a lot of the bicycles being stolen, we are able to recover them within a relatively short time."

Baher also said she tweaked the reporting template to better reflect the impact of street-entrenched crime.

"One of the things arising is I have changed the reporting in policing. If the members are going to a call now that is to deal with a street-entrenched person, we were asked by Vernon city council to prepare some statistics on that, we didn't have a way of capturing that before."

Anderson also asked whether RCMP members are "going light on charges."

"When we have someone who commits a crime we lay the charge that we deem appropriate, that we believe that we can prove," Baher said. She added that the RCMP have no say in what the Crown charges someone with.

In the end, Anderson expressed his gratitude for all of the work the RCMP does and to Baher for providing depth in her responses.

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