VICTORIA -- The West Shore RCMP say that they are considering hiring more police officers as reports of crime spike amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the health crisis leaving many streets emptier than usual, Mounties say there was a rise in property crimes in March compared to March 2019.

The most dramatic increase could be seen in the number of vehicles that were stolen in the jurisdiction last month.

Reports of stolen vehicles increased 167 per cent – from six vehicle thefts in March 2019 to 16 last month.

Meanwhile, break-and-enter reports at businesses rose 75 per cent, up from four cases to seven this year.

Reports of shoplifting and fraud also increased amid the pandemic, say police. Shoplifting cases rose 42 per cent, up from 26 reports last March to 37 in 2020.

Meanwhile, fraud reports rose 32 per cent, up from 22 cases to 29 this year.

The West Shore RCMP says it is looking at hiring more officers to respond to the increase in crime.

“We recognize that these are unprecedented times and many first responders, including us, have made some changes to our service delivery,” said Insp. Todd Preston.

“Earlier this month, West Shore RCMP increased the number of officers that are out patrolling the West Shore communities. We have done this by reorganizing our existing police resources,” he said.

“We continue to remain in contact with our municipal leaders who have all been very understanding of the added pressures in policing the West Shore. To that end, we are looking to increase the overall number of police officers that serve the West Shore in order to address the needs of the community. Thus far, West Shore community leaders have shown nothing but support for this.”

The detachment adds that while more patrols will be visible in the community, West Shore residents are asked to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.