Coquitlam still ranks low in police-to-population numbers

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, as well as PoCo
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, as well as PoCo's Mayor Greg Moore and PoMo's Mayor Mike Clay, say the latest StatsCan police-to-population report doesn't offer a full picture of local police resources.
— image credit: FILE PHOTO

The number of police officers in Coquitlam continues to rank at the bottom of the pack compared to other similar-sized cities, even though its "cop-to-pop." ratio increased by seven officers over 2011.

On Wednesday, Statistics Canada released its annual report for police resources across the country. It shows that Coquitlam and Richmond, both with a ratio of 114 officers per 100,000 residents, had the lowest police-to-population ration of 11 cities with more than 100,000 people.

Ratios for other cities in the same category, per 100,000 residents, are (2011 rates in brackets):

• Victoria: 229 (232)

• Vancouver: 202 (208)

• Abbotsford: 156 (168)

• Delta: 149 (156)

• Surrey: 137 (134)

• Saanich: 130 (132)

• Burnaby: 128 (131)

Port Coquitlam's ratio remained the second-lowest in B.C. for populations between 50,000 and 99,999, with a ratio of 102:100,000. Only North Vancouver District's ratio of 85:100,000 was lower.

Ratios for other cities are:

• Prince George: 171 (182)

• Nanaimo: 168 (171)

• New Westminster: 164 (163)

• Kamloops: 148 (142)

• Maple Ridge: 111 (115)

Among cities with a population of 15,000 to 49,999, Port Moody, which has a municipal police force, was third among 20 similar-sized cities with a ratio of 170:100,000.

The StatsCan report also includes crime clearance rates for 2011, which showed slight declines for each of the three cities compared to the previous year.

Coquitlam's weighted clearance rate (in which more serious offences are assigned a higher weight) in 2011 was 20.1%, down from 23.1%, while PoCo's was 19.8%, a slight decline from its 2010 rate of 20%. Port Moody's rate was 34.8%, down from 36.1%.

Coquitlam RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jamie Chung said the report doesn't capture the force's "great relationship" with the cities of Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam and with the Port Moody Police. And while the cities decide how many officers the detachment can hire, it's the police force that decides how to use them.

"If we use them to build relationships with the community, to make the community safer, to police strategically with the crime-reduction strategy... that's using the resources wisely," Chung said, adding the report also doesn't include the value of integrated units shared across the region.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart echoed Chung's comments, saying the numbers demonstrate the efficiencies gained through the regional policing model in RCMP-policed communities.

"There is no other department in the city's operation where we are asked to spend more," Stewart stated in an email. "In all aspects of the operation, we are asked to get good results, to augment service, etc., preferably by spending less.

"The annual release of the cop-to-pop. ratios suggests that inputs are more important than results, and we know that's not true. We have a very low crime rate, and our residents feel safe and secure.

"I have no interest in having the same police-to-population ratio as other communities," the mayor wrote. "Our interest is in keeping our community safe, and the Coquitlam detachment does that incredibly efficiently."

PoMo Mayor Mike Clay said the numbers aren't surprising since cities with municipal forces tend to have higher cop-to-pop. ratios, lower crime rates — and higher costs.

"Port Moody residents know that we pay more for policing per capita than most RCMP communities, and value the 'no call too small' philosophy" of the PMPD, Clay said. "We do not target police-to-population ratios but work for exceptional service delivery, which we measure in lower response times, higher clearance rates and overall lower crime rates."

He also noted the valuable relationships with neighbouring RCMP and municipal forces and regional integrated units are not captured in the StatsCan report.

PoCo Mayor Greg Moore stressed that such statistics be used with caution, since the allocation of policing resources depends on the particular needs of each community.

"We know that the best gauge of appropriate service levels are community needs and crime rates, which remain low in our community," he said. "Adding more bodies doesn't always mean better service. Port Coquitlam residents benefit from the economies of scale available through the RCMP, including integrated teams and the ability to draw upon highly specialized resources and technology from other jurisdictions."

Moore noted a 2012 citizens' survey, which found 97% of respondents indicated PoCo is a safe community.

"We work hard to protect our community from crime by providing a police service that meets the city's needs in a cost-effective manner."

The StatsCan report shows that, nationwide, the number of officers increased slightly in 2012 compared to 2011, although the ratio per 100,000 population decreased slightly by 1%. Overall, however, police strength in Canada has increased by 7% since 2002.

It also revealed a trend towards more women in policing, with the number of female officers increasing for the second year in a row while the number of male officers declined.

B.C. (21%) and Quebec (24%) recorded the highest proportion of female officers, both higher than the national average of 20%.


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