Pincher Creek RCMP say local crime fuelled mostly by drug use

·4 min read

Pincher Creek RCMP have released their third-quarter report, providing an overview of crime in the community from July to September.

While crime rates in Pincher Creek remain fairly stable, break-ins have increased, and road safety and drug trafficking continue to be priority issues.

Sgt. Ryan Hodge appeared before town council Nov. 3 to present the report, and compared statistics from the third quarter this year to those in previous years dating back to 2017.

At the top of the crime list is property damage over $2,000 caused by a motor vehicle collision, with 71 files created in the past few months. Theft of items under $5,000, which includes primarily shoplifting and looting from backyards or garages, ranked under this amount, with 34 files. Violations of the Liquor Act, including public drunkenness and possession of liquor in a public place, followed closely behind at 32 files.

Thirty files were opened on assault and 27 on disruption of the peace, which includes mainly arguments on public land. Twenty files were created in response to mental health distress calls, and 20 for a general category under provincial statistics, primarily trespassing.

Although these numbers may seem high, Hodge says Pincher Creek is a safe community by and large and that most property and personal crimes involve drug users.

“The property crime we see in our community is directly tied to methamphetamine and fentanyl use in the community and abroad,” he says. “These people travel amongst themselves between the Crowsnest Pass, Lethbridge, up to Calgary, and hit everything in between.”

Property crime in the community consists primarily of theft, break-and-enters and intentional damage to property, while personal crime is mostly general assault and threats.

Hodge says increasing communication between detachments, the Southern Alberta Crime Reduction Unit and crime analysts has been key to stopping drug-fuelled offences, particularly for transient groups that travel between communities.

Break-in numbers were the highest they’ve been in the third quarter for the past five years, increasing by eight files from 2020, but Hodge says most of these cases were not legitimate.

“We have consistent or chronic complainers, typically drug users who are complaining back and forth that someone broke into their house,” he says.

“Every time that happens, it’s scored as a break-and-enter, even though sometimes it’s not at all, whether it’s their own minds playing tricks on them or just some paranoia.”

Assault and weapon offences have also increased, the latter by 300 per cent in the past five years, but Hodge says all attacks have occurred during drug disputes and have not involved random civilians.

Hodge says police continue to work on seizing drugs and encouraging users to get help through addictions services and counselling.

He adds that although hard drug use is responsible for much of the crime in the area, users make up a very small percentage of the population.

“A very small number of people commit the majority of our crimes in different communities,” he says.

As for traffic offences, there’s been a decrease from the previous year, and most motorists caught speeding have been tourists from other areas, but Hodge says you can never be too vigilant.

“We’re seeing a fairly consistent amount of impaired drivers out there, which is concerning, that’s for sure — especially at 2 o’clock in the afternoon,” he adds.

RCMP were expecting to see an increase in certain offences with the onset of the pandemic, but Hodge says there really hasn’t been much change. Spousal abuse, an offence that may typically be thought to have increased, has actually decreased since last year, he says.

The only category that has increased is mental health crises.

“We have definitely seen an increase in that, with people being stuck at home, not being able to socialize, get the resources they need,” he says.

In the end, Hodge says, policing is really about connecting with the community and the detachment will continue to patrol schools, pay visits to local centres and attend local events.

“We’re still trying to be out there as much as we can,” he adds, “just proactively having good encounters with people instead of always enforcing encounters.”

Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze

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