By Steve Hubrecht 

[email protected]

Property crime is down in the Columbia Valley, according to a quarterly report by RCMP Sgt. Ed deJong.

During his update to Invermere council last week, the commander outlined that calls for RCMP service have remained very steady from this year to last.

During the fourth quarter of the fiscal year (January 1 to March 31, 2024) the Columbia Valley RCMP dealt with 704 files. That’s up only slightly in comparison with 691 files during the same quarter a year ago. Over the full fiscal year (April 2023 to March 2024) the detachment responded to a total of 3,575 files — only nine more than the 3,566 files it dealt with in the previous fiscal year (April 2022 to March 2023).

Mental health calls had dropped to 21 this quarter, compared with 34 the previous quarter.

“It’s hard to say why that is . . . it’s always up and down,” said deJong.

Another police stat that saw a significant plunge this quarter was property crime, which dropped to 108 files, down from 141 files the previous quarter. DeJong indicated the drop may be because several prolific local property crime offenders were arrested and remanded in custody. He added that with the start of the summer season “we may see (property crime) increase again as people come back to the valley to open their seasonal homes for the summer and discover missing items or break and enters.”

Invermere Mayor Al Miller told deJong he was impressed that the Columbia Valley RCMP seem to remain one of the few detachments in rural B.C. that consistently manages to be fully staffed. DeJong replied that there has been a considerable uptick in RCMP staffing levels in recent years. The RCMP Depot (national training academy) in Regina, Saskatchewan has seen levels of recruits rise.

“There are more applicants nationally,” deJong explained, adding a majority of them are from B.C. He noted that is good news for places such as the Columbia Valley, since many Depot graduates want to return if not to their home towns, then at least to their home provinces.

Miller asked deJong if he noticed any policing or crime trends in the Columbia Valley.

“Nothing I’ve noticed in the short time I’ve been here,” the commander replied. But he did say that, on a provincial level, recent moves by the B.C. government to re-criminalize possession of small amounts of hard drugs such as heroin and fentanyl will have a big effect.

“It’s back to not allowing public consumption of drugs and police being able to seize drugs,” said deJong. “It gives us more power in terms of addressing those (hard drug) issues.”