Calls for family violence continue to rise in Hinton after Hinton’s RCMP responded to 234 calls of family violence in 2020, a five-year record high.
Hinton Staff Sgt Chris Murphy told council during the standing committee meeting on Feb. 2 that the RCMP is concerned about the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on people who are stuck at home without outlets and resources to help them.
Family violence calls shot up drastically at the end of the summer, following three or four months of surprisingly low numbers, said Murphy.
He noted that the RCMP responded to 183 calls of family violence in 2016, 176 calls in 2017, 196 calls in 2018, and 172 calls in 2019.
The definition of family violence is fairly broad, Murphy explained. The call can include arguments, threats, assault, and even siblings fighting. The majority of these calls come from within the family unit.
“As we respond, they’re not translating to more criminal charges thankfully, but it does show us the need of working together with other community groups,” Murphy said.
The RCMP is part of a domestic violence committee, through which they work with other local agencies to provide support to struggling families.
Murphy anticipates that family violence calls will continue to climb as the restrictions continue to lock down the community.
Usually there are underlying factors that come into play with these types of calls, Murphy explained, such as addictions, mental health, or unemployment.
“My preference is of course that the individuals receive the support and guidance and help that they need so hopefully it doesn’t escalate to a point where we are coming in, arresting somebody, and putting them in jail and before the courts,” Murphy said.
During his report to council, Murphy also touched on several other crime trends and statistics, including missing persons and the mental health act.
In 2020, the Hinton RCMP recorded 26 investigations for missing persons, all of which were located.
The RCMP responded to 138 mental health calls in 2020, but Murphy anticipates an increase of this number further into the pandemic.
Based on input from the community last year, the RCMP focused on crime reduction and community consultation.
In 2019, Hinton saw a record high break and enters, which was followed by a 61 per cent decrease in 2020. That translates to 76 fewer break and enter incidents.
The clearance rate of break and enters, which means solving the crimes, was at 35 per cent in 2020.
Compared to 2019, there was an overall reduction in crime in 2020. These reductions include a one per cent decrease in person crimes, a 35 per cent decrease in property crime, a 31 per cent decrease in other criminal code offences, a 47 per cent decrease in motor vehicle theft, and a 46 per cent decrease in theft under $5000.
The RCMP also managed to record a five-year low in traffic collisions within Hinton last year. It investigated a total of 187 traffic collisions in 2020, compared to 358 collisions in 2016, 326 in 2017, 286 in 2018, and 281 in 2019.
Community consultation was challenging for the detachment throughout the pandemic, but they adapted and came up with different ways to interact and engage with the community, Murphy noted.
They held two RCMP Town halls, one in-person town hall prior to the pandemic and one virtual town hall in the fall. The next town hall is planned for March 4.
Murphy reported that two repeat offenders stopped committing offences after going through the habitual offender management program, while two others either moved away or are continuing with their lifestyle.
The two successful individuals haven’t committed a new offence in the last year, and Murphy added that these are people who had been committing offences on a monthly basis.
In addition, the RCMP has continued their aggressive prolific offender management program. This includes conducting bail release, probation checks, apprehending people on warrants, and holding people accountable.
Hotpots is another initiative that the RCMP continues to update based on crime data. Strategically sending resources to certain areas in town has resulted in far more foot patrols, bike patrols, and interactions between police and the community, Murphy said.
A traffic safety committee was created in 2020, partnered with numerous agencies including Hinton Peace Officers, Commercial Vehicles, Fish and Wildlife, and Parks.
The traffic safety group conducted numerous joint force operations, usually over long weekends.
Murphy briefly addressed the COVID-19 pandemic and explained how this changed the way RCMP respond to calls for service.
“It’s not lost on all of us that we still have a very important job to do. It just may look a little bit differently and how we go about doing that,” Murphy said.
A few RCMP members were recently trained for search management and will be doing training hazards and assessments in the area, Murphy said.
He noted that all three municipal positions at the Hinton detachment are full, as well as all 19 regular member positions. He anticipates several transfers in 2021 and identified some replacements in March and in the summer.
Murphy is also moving on to a new position in the Western Alberta District this year.
The next RCMP town hall is planned for March 4 at 7pm, where Hinton and Yellowhead County residents will have an opportunity to share comments and suggestions regarding policing priorities in 2021/2022.
RCMP welcomes residents to send their questions in advance to email@example.com. Questions and comments will also be monitored through the YouTube live chat during the livestream. For more information, visit hinton.ca/RCMPTownHall.
Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice