Springtime represents hike in police calls — sergeant

With warmer weather finally arriving, Stettler RCMP Staff-Sgt. Duncan Babchuk said he expects the detachment’s call volume to increase

With warmer weather finally arriving, Stettler RCMP Staff-Sgt. Duncan Babchuk said he expects the detachment’s call volume to increase as people move outside more frequently.

Stettler RCMP numbers show that crime was generally down during January and February from 2013, but the frigid temperatures were likely a contributing factor to that, Babchuk said. An increase in complaints about harassment through text messages or websites like Facebook during the cold weather “is a big issue for us,” Babchuk said, attributing some of that increase to people being bored and remaining inside to avoid the frosty temperatures.

Although two months doesn’t provide a large sample to confidently say “crime is down,” numbers show that criminal code complaints are down 54.2 per cent over last year. Provincial offences are up slightly — 20 per cent — from last year, and are mostly comprised of traffic act violations.

On the positive side, January and February 2014 saw no fatal motor vehicle collisions, but two injury-causing collisions in February were reported.

That is also down from last year, which saw four injury-causing collisions in February and two in January.

One statistic that Babchuk noted was the number of false or abandoned 911 calls.

“We had one yesterday that I was sure was a pocket dial,” he said Tuesday. “We’re not getting a lot of prank calls.”

Many of the false calls police receive are from companies where people need to dial 9 to exit the internal phone system.

Babchuk urged people who accidentally phone 911 to stay on the line and tell the operator it’s an accidental dial. When people hang up, it’s recorded as a hang-up and the call needs to be investigated.

“You could have a domestic situation, for example, where someone has the phone hung up on them,” Babchuk said.

Clearance rates — the number of investigations closed by police — are about the same as last year, and are “the biggest indicator of how we’re doing,” Babchuk said.

The numbers, however, get thrown a bit by transient crime, where for example someone comes into town, breaks into a few locations, and moves on.

When there’s no forensic evidence, and video evidence — if there is any — is no help, those cases go unsolved.

It’s not just local break-ins, but thefts and mischief cases in the Stettler region and in the oil industrial areas.

So far this year, police have a 45 per cent clearance rate in criminal code investigations, a number dinged by property investigations.

All criminal code cases involving people, such as assault, have been closed, and 50 per cent of non-person and non-property criminal code cases have been cleared.

Only a quarter of the cases in property crimes have been cleared, and most due to the difficulties mentioned by Babchuk.

Some numbers

• RCMP responded to two false alarms in February and one in January.

• There were five false or abandoned 911 calls in January.

• RCMP dealt with one abandoned vehicle in January.

• The victim services unit, a volunteer cadre of individuals trained to help people experiencing traumatic events, saw one offer of assistance accepted and three declined.

• Police had three cases of spousal abuse reported in 2014, but two were determined to be unfounded.