Dawson Creek RCMP catching 'a breather,' top cop says

Last February, the City of Dawson Creek was in the grips of a nasty "drug war" that made headlines across B.C. after a man was abducted, shot and left for dead. 

City police went on to field 690 calls for service that month, one of the busiest months in recent memory.

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Now, a monthly report that will appear before city councillors March 21 shows those numbers are down, partly because of a slowdown in drug activity.   The detachment registered 585 calls this past February.

"It gives us a chance to catch a breather," Staff Sgt. Marcel Guilbault, the detachment commander, told Alaska Highway News. "We're still trying to catch up from last year."

A lot of the cases from the spike in crime that took place a year ago are now heading to court, he said, leaving officers busy providing items to Crown prosecutors to build cases.

"There were some serious ones," he said. "There was a rash of shootings, a rash of break-ins and firearms were taken.

"It's still here. It's still prevalent," he said of the ongoing battle for control of the drug trade in the Peace Region.

"We have (officers) keeping an eye on (it). It's manageable right now. We're working on a few projects. I just want to keep the pressure on. Keep a lid on things."

Theft, mischief and motor vehicle accidents once again led the way in February in calls for service.

Guilbault said the mild winter has helped curb the number of car accidents on highways surrounding the city. 

Drug crimes are still percolating in the background, he said, but are not as common as in recent months.

Cocaine and fentanyl are the drugs police come in contact with the most, he said. Marijuana, not so much.

"There is the odd (marijuana charge)," he said. "But it's mostly cocaine, crack cocaine and now we're seeing more and more fentanyl." 

Marijuana's pending legal status, a campaign pledge of the federal Liberal government, does not change the fact that the drug remains illegal, Guilbault said, adding officers will still make arrests for possession of the drug "until we're told otherwise."

"Our job is just to bring the evidence into courts and what the Crown decides to do with it is up to them," he added.

FALSE ALARMS DOWN, MENTAL HEALTH CALLS BEING TRACKED

The number of false alarms police in the city have responded to has dropped by about half, from 44 in February 2015 to 28 in February 2016.

This is largely due to educating businesses about why false alarms happen, he said.

"It's all about adjusting the sensors (for alarm equipment)," Guilbault said. "Somebody could go and bang on the window and it will come on the system as a glass break when in fact, the glass was still intact."

Police developed a pamphlet explaining to businesses what they can do to prevent both robberies and false alarms. 

Dawson Creek Mounties continue to spend significant amounts of time assisting people in mental distress.   The detachment has started keeping track of man hours spent on mental health calls, Guilbault says. 

Once police apprehend someone who is deemed a danger to themselves or others because of mental health reasons, they are required by law to stay with them until they can be assessed by a qualified doctor. 

"It could be six or eight hours," he said. "It varies. But, it takes that officer off the street which reduces our ability to respond to emergencies." 

STAFFING PROBLEMS PERSIST  

In April, one unit, the General Investigations Section, will be losing two of its four members. It won't be back to full staff for about six months.

"It's a process," Guilbault said. 

For the time in between, the unit will operate with a lot of overtime for its members.

 "I don't think we have much of an option," Guilbault said. "If it's serious enough, like a homicide for example, I'll have to draw from (general watch) to compensate, which causes another issue in itself. But, we'll just cross our fingers and hope nothing happens."

dcreporter@dcdn.ca

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