RCMP first quarterly crime statistics generated enough discussion among Regional District of Central Kootenay directors last week that the board will invite the region’s top Mountie to attend an upcoming meeting to address some of their concerns.
Many directors were alarmed by the number of mental health calls for service in January through March. The largest number of Nelson and Kaslo’s calls were for mental health issues.
The Nelson detachment had 32 mental health calls and 31 involving alcohol and drugs. Kaslo was close behind with 30 mental health calls and 19 for alcohol and drugs. Salmo had 10 mental health calls but 33 involving alcohol and /or drugs.
Salmo mayor Stephen White said he meets with local detachment regularly and his concern is not about police staffing but health.
“So much of this is about health, not policing,” said White. “Our local RCMP detachment estimates 70 per cent of their calls have some element of mental health issues, including addictions. It’s having an effect.”
In a meeting with Insp. Tom Roy, the regional commander, White was given the example of two officers spending entire shifts at the Trail mental health unit, sitting with someone in crisis, waiting for them to be admitted. And this takes the officers from other policing issues which need attention.
White supports bringing this information into discussions with Interior Health. In further discussions with the local RCMP detachment, White said they have noticed the difference it makes anytime residents and the RCMP can get can support from Interior Health.
“Mental health concerns have fallen off the edge of the table of higher orders and landed on our shoulders,” he said.
“It’s not a matter of policing and crime, it’s a health issue and a lack of health resources. We would support initiatives that would include mental health workers who would be on call to assist the RCMP, like a return call to a familiar address.
“When we have qualified volunteers, like social workers, working with our local detachment, they have regular contact. [They are] not isolated, not cut off and that can change a lot. It makes them more likely to reach out when they need it and hopefully have some better outcomes.”
Rural Salmo director Hans Cunningham suggested a regional representative would be helpful “as we can address the larger issues like mental health.”
Rural Nelson director Ramona Faust said according to the RCMP commander and the city’s police chief, there are “huge staffing problems,” adding “the hierarchy of attention is not satisfactory.”
Both East Shore director Garry Jackman and Creston director Ron Toyota suggested keeping in contact with local RCMP representatives as well, to get more information about potential detachment vacancies.
Rural Castlegar has highest rate of motor vehicle incidents
Part of the discussion included references to the 2014 emergency services annual report by regional district fire chief Terry Swan.
Area I director Andy Davidoff was shocked by the more than 40 motor vehicle accidents in the rural Castlegar area.
“It’s the highest number in the region,” said Davidoff. “It’s a very troubling statistic.”
In 2014, the Tarrys Fire Department responded to 42 accidents out of a total of 231 responses by 18 rural RDCK fire departments.
The department responds to crashes from the Brilliant dam to Beasley and partway up the Slocan Valley if the jaws of life are required.
“We’re not talking the City of Castlegar or Nelson,” he said, adding “for volunteers to have to responded to 42 incidents in a year is a lot of pressure.”
And he points out this is just motor vehicle incidents.
Davidoff has been in discussions with Roy and Southeast BC Chief Supt. Frank Smart.
“We have to work together to reduce this number,” he said, unsure if it’s road maintenance or highway speed.
“These aren’t mountain roads, it’s relatively flat,” he said. “We’re not in Beasley where it can be pretty rough.”
“Is it a matter of having more resources for more traffic control or investing in reader board where people see their speeds? Or is it a road condition or maintenance issue?
“Is it a matter of patrols? They are not getting the resources they need to patrol. RCMP get their budget and that’s what they get.”
An RCMP spokesman had not responded by press time to an inquiry about staffing policies and budgeting.