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Cop numbers don't tell the full story, say Tri-City mayors

Tri-City municipalities continue to fall behind the national and provincial average when it comes to police officers to population ratios, according to Statistics Canada data released last week. - TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO
Tri-City municipalities continue to fall behind the national and provincial average when it comes to police officers to population ratios, according to Statistics Canada data released last week.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

Tri-City municipalities continue to fall behind the national and provincial average when it comes to police officers to population ratios, according to Statistics Canada data released last week.

The report said that nationally, there are 197 officers for every 100,000 people living in Canada, while in British Columbia the number is approximately 193.

In the Tri-Cities, however, the numbers are considerably lower. In Coquitlam there are only 116 police officers for every 100,000 people, while in Port Coquitlam the numbers is about 110. Port Moody has the highest police to population ratio of the three with 155.

But the StatsCan numbers do not give a complete public safety picture, said Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart.

"We have a very low crime rate," he said. "If stats were produced to show that our water department had fewer engineers per 100,000 people our community would be called efficient."

Coquitlam is recognized as one of the safer communities in the Lower Mainland, he added, noting that significant reductions in crime have occurred over the last few years.

Still, the city has made investments in an effort to bring more officers into the community.

The StatsCan report shows that six officers have been added to the force in Coquitlam since 2010, while Port Coquitlam has added two members over the same period of time.

There are also efficiencies in having the same detachment cover both Coquitlam and PoCo as well as being integrated within the larger Lower Mainland RCMP force, Stewart said.

"The movement of police officers across borders is very seamless," he said. "We do benefit from that."

Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay concurred with Stewart, noting that the cop to population ratio is just one of several numbers that need to be considered.

Crime rates, clearance rates, the number of calls and the public's satisfaction with the department are equally important and paint a clearer picture of public safety in a community, he said.

Port Moody is a city force that does not contract with the RCMP. Still, Clay said that regionally integrated teams, like the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team or the Integrated Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Services, take pressure off of the local detachment to focus on resident's concerns.

"Our department is primarily a patrol division," he said. "It is easier to do when you don't have members doing a homicide investigation or something that could take months or years."

Changes in crime reduction methods have also benefited Port Moody, which is one of the smaller forces in the Lower Mainland, Clay said. Targeting prolific offenders has increased the effectiveness of individual officers and helped lower crime rates, he said.

"We have a small police force where police are always talking to each other," said Clay. "Those dynamics can help a lot."

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