Can’t paint community picture by numbers: RCMP

Mickey Dumont

The Portage Citizen

Stats Can has its Crime Severity Index for measuring crime and the RCMP employ its own statisticians to analyze Canadian crime it says goes beyond the numbers in helping the national police force develop it policing programs.

“We have our police reported statistics that our crime analysts use. Those are different,” says Tara Seel, RCMP Media Relations. “It gets complicated,” she added.

Stats Canada’s Crime Severity Index (CSI) data is collected for a calendar year. Once Stats Can analysts organize the data into its reporting format, the data is sent back to each reporting police station — 302 this year — to ensure it is accurate and the police have sign off on it.

“This year there has been an overall increase of police-reported crime of 3 per cent for Manitoba,” Seel said.

RCMP police more than 580 communities “and each of those communities have very unique characteristics and concerns. We’re very careful not to oversimplify and attribute a rise in crime to one particular factor. That’s not realistic. We’re aware that Portage la Prairie is one of those top 10 communities of over 10,000 population and I think we need to look at both Portage and Manitoba as a whole.”

RCMP want communities to understand there’re many contributing factors to this rise in the police reported crime statistics (CSI). “One of those is the rise in drug use, particularly opioids and methamphetamines (meth) in many of our communities,” Seel said. “Those types of drugs do fuel violent crime. We are seeing that. We are also seeing continuing alcohol and substance abuse issues and along with that addiction. Those are also large contributing factors to the crime we are seeing in many of our communities, Portage included.”

While marijuana, followed by cocaine, are the drugs most commonly seized by police in Manitoba. Meth is number one. Statistics Canada data from 2012 to 2016 show a steady increase in arrests for meth possession and trafficking in the province.

Winnipeg police reported in January this year, they took more than 5.8 kilograms of meth off the streets or nearly half the amount seized in all of 2017! If it is a problem in Winnipeg, it is a problem in Portage la Prairie and it is eating up valuable police resources.

“One thing that isn’t talked about a lot but I think needs to be included here is that domestic violence continues to be a prevalent issue,” Seel said.

“This is a significant priority for the RCMP in Manitoba and we’re doing a lot of work in conjunction with our communities moving forward. We don’t talk about it a lot in the interest of protecting the victim, but it is a prevalent issue,” Seel said.

Part of the RCMP preventative strategy is in improving communication.

“Detachment commanders are in constant contact with our communities. Whether that be the inspector in Portage la Prairie or through the district level. Once priorities are established we initiate programs to address local crime issues.

“We’re fully committed to working with each community on their different challenges and requirements.

“A few months ago we had a press conference at Portage to talk about what we were seeing in terms of gang-related activity and gun violence in the Portage community. We realized that was a priority so we initiated programs and targeted enforcement to deal with that.”

Since then several arrests have been made and police report it is not seeing as much gun-related violence in the city.

Province-wide the RCMP has a comprehensive crime reduction strategy and have implemented management programs community mobilization initiatives.

Portage la Prairie took a step forward May 24 to improving community safety and well-being with the announcement it has adopted an improved community mobilization model.

Brandon, Swan River and Thompson have already established HUB models within their communities after publicly acknowledging their communities needed a better way to deal with poverty, crime, drug issues and social crisis of many descriptions.

The Portage la Prairie Hub table partners are the human services that will play the essential role in the newly formed hub. These partners are: Portage School division, Child and Family Services – Central, Canadian Mental Health Association, Probation, Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, Manitoba Housing, Youth for Christ, Southern Health Support Services – Mental Health, RCMP and the Community Connections Resource Centre.

Portage Community Revitalization Corporation Executive Director Victoria Espey, will chair the hub committee and will work closest with steering committee members Portage la Prairie School Division representative Rochelle Rands and RCMP Const. Sean O’Keefe.

“Portage faces some social challenges,” Portage la Prairie Mayor Irvine Ferris said following the hub announcement. “I think everyone is aware Portage has a higher than average provincial poverty rate, we have a number of citizens and families that are vulnerable in our community — we recognize that.

“We also recognize the earlier the intervention the better in terms of preventing a crisis. This model has been very successful in Brandon and we view it as a very smart investment in the community of Portage la Prairie.

“Don’t expect things to change overnight. This is a long-term plan which requires a lot of ongoing work,” the mayor said. “Based upon the success we have seen in other communities we have great expectations for this. It will meet a lot of the needs we have here.”

“In the interest of not getting lost in all the numbers,” Seel explained, “the bottom line is the RCMP in Manitoba has an unwavering commitment to working with communities to make everyone safer. That is really what it is all about.”

Within the last month, the RCMP has posted a new inspector to Portage la Prairie.

RCMP Inspector
RCMP Inspector Jarrid St. Pierre

is new at his desk here, but not to the improved community mobilization model (HUB) that was adopted here in May. The inspector was previously part of a team to adopt a similar model. His experience with both preemptive policing and community mobilization of resources couldn’t come at a better time.

“The Crime Severity Index (for Portage la Prairie) from 2007 to 2017 show this year’s statistics are still lower than the Crime Severity Index for 2007. I don’t deal in statistics but rather specifics,” the inspector said. “Looking at some of those specifics, for instance breaking and enters was up about 45 incidents from the year before, however, mischiefs were down about 34 incidents.

“The shootings we had back in December (2017) for attempt murder charges (four) increased our Crime Severity quite a bit because it is weighed so heavily. Overall the Crime Severity Index is lower than what it was in 2007-8, 2011-12. We’ve had some good years and we have had some bad years,” the inspector said.

“If you turn your attention to a poll I read from the city’s annual report, it speaks to how safe people feel they are in the City of Portage. A lot of the crimes that are being committed such as the robberies and the attempt murders are not random acts of violence. They are very specific where the offender often knows or has ties with the victim. There are issues at play such as methamphetamine and we are working at being proactive in how we are dealing with that. In the short time, I have been here I have seen a lot of the great work going on in this detachment and area. It is a great place to live. The statistics don’t paint the entire picture.”

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