West Shore sees early increase in 2015 crime

Crime in the West Shore is up 16 per cent so far this year compared to the same period last year, breaking from a slight downward trend in 2014.

While a few high-profile assaults have dominated headlines in 2015, much of the spike in calls for service can be attributed to a few prolific offenders on break-in and theft sprees, said West Shore RCMP Insp. Larry Chomyn.

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“We were aware some of our prolific offenders were coming back to the community and we’re taking action to work with those individuals,” he said.

It’s a shift from 2014, which saw a three per cent drop in calls for service, according to West Shore RCMP’s annual report. But Chomyn cautioned that spikes early on aren’t necessarily predictive of the whole year. “We can go through a period of time where it slows, so when you take it over the longer term, our calls for service balance out a bit more.” West Shore RCMP comprises 63 officers and 19 civilian staff who serve 71,000 residents in Langford, Colwood, View Royal, Metchosin and the Highlands, as well as the Songhees First Nation and Esquimalt First Nation.

Langford Mayor Stew Young said he’s concerned about recent assaults, including a sexual assault on a woman jogging near Glen Lake Park, the fatal beating of a 26-year-old man on the Songhees First Nation reserve and a case where a woman was punched by a man who grabbed her suitcase on a Colwood trail.

“We’re putting staff resources, security and more bylaw enforcement in,” he said.

But he said he was happy to see the overall decrease in calls for service last year. “For 23 years, I really have had no complaints about the RCMP. They’ve done a hell of a job as far as I’m concerned. They’re really reactive to trends and what’s going on.”

Chomyn said he considered 2014 a successful year.

“Fortunately, a lot of our files — especially the big ones — we were able to resolve. Now, we’re working on setting priorities and objectives for the coming year. What we’re looking at is focusing on where we see some of our trends, like property crimes, and deciding how we will tackle that moving forward.”

Highlights from 2014

  • Four prolific offenders were in contact with police a total of 59 times, even though several of them spent most of the year incarcerated. RCMP attribute a drop in property crimes to those offenders’ incarceration and curfew checks. Thefts from motor vehicles dropped 21 per cent, while thefts of vehicles fell 32 per cent versus 2013.
  • Langford had the highest number of calls for service relative to its population size. There were 30.6 files per 100 people in Langford, followed by View Royal’s 24.0 per 100 and Colwood’s 18.9 per 100.
  • Criminal Code offences against people — the category includes assault, robbery, sexual offences, weapons offences and manslaughter/murder — rose about 8.7 per cent overall. Individually, robberies dropped to 20 from 22, while weapons offences rose to 65 from 54, sexual offences rose to 27 from 25 and assaults rose to 274 from 254. There were no cases of manslaughter or murder.
  • Drug offences showed one of the biggest drops, but Chomyn said the 50 per cent decrease in drug-production charges had more to do with shifting policy than actual production.

The number of legal medical marijuana facilities is growing and police are concentrating resources elsewhere. Drug-possession charges also dropped 17 per cent and drug-trafficking charges dropped 11 per cent.

  • Almost one in 10 calls related to traffic and driving complaints, but serious-injury accidents fell by 13 per cent, with enforcement focused on high-crash intersections.
  • Reports made under the Mental Health Act, including those involving suicidal individuals, rose to 571 from 488. Domestic violence rose to 480 files from 420.
  • False alarms and pocket dials accounted for a huge number of calls for service. There were 1,018 false alarms in 2014 and 519 abandoned 911 calls.

asmart@timescolonist.com

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