Are West Shore RCMP keeping up with demand as communities grow?
LANGFORD -- Construction is everywhere within the West Shore, and with that construction comes people. Unfortunately, having more people in a community usually leads to more crime, putting a higher demand on police services.
“Our municipality has been growing by about 1,000 to 2,000 people per year,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young.
Calls for service to the West Shore RCMP have also risen with population growth.
“Usually, we see anywhere from a 15 to 17 per cent call volume increase per year,” said Const. Nancy Saggar with West Shore RCMP.
That’s exactly what that detachment saw in 2019.
“It’s nothing out of the ordinary that we’re experiencing here, but we are a larger community that is just getting larger,” said Saggar.
The question is, is the RCMP detachment adequately growing with the population of the community it serves?
“We’ve had fairly constant growth throughout the years, in terms of adding police officers every year,” said Saggar. “I’d say we’ve grown at about a rate of four to five police officers per year.”
In 2016, the detachment was made up of 71 police officers. In 2020, there were 90.
“We used to police about one to 1,000, one to 1,200, and now we’re policing down around one to 750,” said the Mayor of Langford.
That’s one police officer for every 750 people who reside in the West Shore.
“The biggest pushback that I get from my community around policing is, my community would love to see more enforcement on the roads,” said Colwood Mayor Rob Martin.
Last year, West Shore RCMP received 20,000 calls for service. The top five reasons for those calls were traffic complaints, followed by breach of conditions, assistance to other agencies including fire and other police departments, and finally, personal wellbeing checks.
“So nowhere in there is ‘crimes against person’ as being a top-related call for service,” said Saggar.
Funding for the detachment is a group effort. Langford, Colwood and View Royal are the three municipalities involved in the funding model. Highlands, Metchosin and two First Nation communities get their portion covered by the B.C. Government.
View Royal’s mayor says the province isn’t pulling it’s weight when it comes to funding.
“We recognized a few years ago that we needed to increase the number of officers,” said View Royal Mayor David Screech. “We’ve been working in a strategic way at that, but the province needs to come to the table and talk to us about how they’re also going to help out that detachment.”
Over the last three years, View Royal and Colwood have each funded two new officers. Langford has been funding four new officers per year for the last four years.
New dedicated units have been created over the last five years with the 19 new police officers, including a dedicated bike patrol, crime reduction unit, drug unit – and coming this year, an organized crime unit.