Port Coquitlam saw a dramatic increase in assaults, threats and harassment against individuals in 2022 — even as the overall crime rate is dropping.
The city of approximately 60,000 souls saw the crime rate hold steady last year with 54 crimes per 1,000 people, similar to an historic low of 52 per 1,000 people 2021.
That's down considerably from a crime rate of 63 offences/1,000 people in 2019.
Still, that's no cause for celebration, as the city is still experiencing a troubling number of persons crimes, while property crimes have dropped but remain high and Port Coquitlam RCMP officers dealt with the equivalent of two mental health calls per day last year.
The Port Coquitlam RCMP 2022 year-end statistics were shared with council on Tuesday, March 7.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said federal bail regulations allow repeat offenders back in the community, frustrating residents who are victimized by theft.
He noted that the federal government should deal with those challenges when it meets soon with provincial and territorial ministers.
Focus on prolific offenders
“I hope we come out of that with a better direction because allowing a small number of individuals to continually victimize the rest of society I don’t think is healthy. I don’t think it’s right and it plays out in every community."
Acting OIC and Insp. Darren Carr said a focus on prolific offenders has helped squelch property crime, which had 1,843 calls last year, 11 per cent lower than the three-year average.
However, there is little to explain why more people were involved in assaults.
Carr said most of the violent crime against individuals is "mostly against people who know each other rather than someone they don’t know in the community."
In all there were 671 persons crimes last year, led by assaults, threats and harassment.
There were no homicides last year.
Property crimes drop slightly
Meanwhile, property crimes have been trending downward since 2019, but remain the biggest case load for the Port Coquitlam RCMP.
Soon, PoCo residents will learn more when a crime dashboard, currently vetted for privacy, will be released to the public.
Still, you don't need a dashboard to know that catalytic converter theft is an ongoing concern.
Last year PoCo saw a 64 per cent rise in catalytic converter thefts for a total of 136 files.
One person was recently arrested and charged for stealing catalytic converters, Carr noted.
Frustrations for residents
It's these sorts of property theft crimes that are frustrating local residents, West said, noting that complaints about property crime are one of the main reasons he gets calls from residents.
He urged the federal government to dial back its "catch-and-release" bail program and said police need support in keeping prolific offenders off the street.
His comments come as Premier David Eby said this week that the federal government needs to reform the bail system to target repeat offenders.
Eby, speaking at a news conference, said B.C. residents are "very frustrated — and rightly so — with the small group of repeat, violent offenders" who are "cycling in and out" of the justice system.
In his comments, West echoed those concerns and credited police patrols and visibility is helping keep crime down.
More investigative hours
But don't expect fewer police officers on the street.
Carr said police work today requires ever more "investigative hours" thanks to administrative reforms and statutory changes.
As well, mental health calls remain high at 729 for 2022, compared to 574 in 2019, and RCMP officers also deal with a lot of social issues, he said, such as homelessness, mental health and addictions,
A district-wide group is also looking into establishing Car 67, which pairs RCMP with mental health services.
Response time within minutes
Carr also acknowledged staff for having one of the best response times to serious crimes 5.5 seconds to answer a 911 call and between 1.4 and 2.7 minutes to respond to a priority 1 or 2 call.