Crime in Castlegar has been on the rise in recent months, according to Castlegar RCMP Sgt. Monty Taylor.
Taylor says the detachment has seen an eight per cent increase in calls over the last three months, following what had been a downward trend in crime.
There have been a number of complaints from residents and business owners in the city’s downtown core and the recent stabbing attack and armed robbery incidents have brought the issue to the forefront.
The local RCMP Crime Reduction Unit’s monthly report for February states there has been an increased amount of transient people in the Castlegar area over the past couple of months.
“CRU member … has dealt with them directly and/or indirectly in regards to files related to CDSA (controlled substances), mischief, assaults, thefts, break and enters and unwanted persons,” states the report.
At a March 1 meeting, Taylor told city council that a number of those people have been using The Way Out Shelter operating out of Castlegar and District Community Services Society (CDCSS) or other services provided by the agency.
“We are increasing patrols in certain areas,” said Taylor. “But the unfortunate thing is at the most we have two to three members working. When a large investigation comes forward, that takes away from our proactive work.”
Some residents and business owners in the vicinity of the shelter took their concerns to the same city council meeting.
“Every community needs to have a shelter, you need to have supportive housing, but we need to be sure that that housing is managed appropriately and that the community has the supports and the services in place to not set these people up for further failure,” said Taylor.
Taylor noted one of the gaps in service relates to mental health calls and the Castlegar hospital not operating 24 hours a day.
Mental health calls require two officers, and after the hospital is closed both of those officers are needed to transport the person to the hospital in Trail. With only two to three officers on duty at a time, this then also leaves a gap in community policing.
Taylor encourages people to phone RCMP when they see something suspicious happening, but he also says he’d like to see people reach out to the stakeholders and service providers in the area that may be associated with the calls to let them know what is happening.
At the council meeting CDCSS director Kristein Johnson said that they could not comment on any specific individual or incident as to whether that person was residing at the shelter due to privacy issues. But she encouraged anyone with concerns to reach out to the organization.
The shelter will soon be moving to the former Flamingo Motel building further uptown. Johnson acknowledged that one of the things the society has learned since opening the shelter in the downtown location is that it was not really an appropriate spot for a shelter.