Increased enforcement resulted in a spike in drug charges during the past year, RCMP S/Sgt. Gary Rhodes told town councillors at their meeting Sept. 23.
In most other categories, though, crime was down according to statistics he reviewed for them.
Comparing year-to-date statistics for the first eight months of 2013 to the same period in 2012, he said assaults were down, criminal harassment was down, uttering threats was down and overall total persons crimes showed a significant decrease of 25 per cent.
Reported break and enters were down 38 per cent, thefts of motor vehicles down 18 per cent and “one dear to our heart, break and enters to vehicles and thefts from vehicles” were down 12 per cent.
“We’ve seen a decrease overall of 15 per cent in crime reported,” Rhodes told councillors.
Drug trafficking went from six cases in 2012 to 17 cases in 2013 for an increase of 183 per cent while Liquor Act charges dropped by 53 per cent (423 charges down to 195 charges). “Both of these are significant,” he said. “Drug enforcement is proactive, we make that happen. At the same time there’s been a significant decrease in Liquor Act charges in the last two years. We’re just not finding it with as many or more officers out on the beach.”
Rhodes also reported motor vehicle collisions were down 20 per cent “likely due to some of the enforcement by town bylaw as well as RCMP”.
Looking at the longer term, Rhodes said Sylvan’s population increased by 20 per cent between the 2006 and 2011 federal census but in the same period there was a corresponding decrease of seven per cent in total crime.
“I think that’s indicative not just of what the RCMP are doing, but what the town is doing, what businesses are doing, how the town has changed, the people being attracted to Sylvan Lake. We’re seeing those changes come to fruition here.”
According to his charts, impaired driving charges dropped from 82 in the first eight months of 2012 to 69 in the similar period of 2013.
Councillor Laverne Asselstine asked about a “perception of an increase in graffiti, vandalism”.
“That’s sort of one offs,” said Rhodes. “Statistics don’t bear that out. There was an increase in vandalism during the summer months, specifically August. Next year, as a result of what town council has done this year, two new positions are being added, a school resource officer and a crime reduction officer. Thank you for your foresight. This town is big enough we do need these positions. The crime reduction officer will address some of those issues that are minor in nature but quite aggravating — someone who can dedicate time to do that can goes a long way to solving that.”
Councillor Graham Parsons asked about the increase in drug trafficking. Rhodes responded Sylvan Lake is a tourist destination and there are people who come here to party and live by a large centre. The spike is an indication of increased enforcement. We do know we’re having more success in charging them.” He predicted another spike next year given they’ll have additional resources.
The subject of the Highways 781 and 20 intersections was raised by Mayor Susan Samson.
“What we see is nice improvements to lighting, an extra laneway for turning that’s going a long way,” Rhodes said. He added emergency services, including the fire department and EMS, are very happy with the changes. “There are no negative issues to what we see there, it’s all positive. That doesn’t preclude people going through red lights.”