Staff Sgt. Ken Brissard of the WIlliams Lake RCMP has weighed in on the latest crime severity index statistics released from Statistics Canada last week.
Williams Lake was given sixth place out of 239 Canadian police service communities with a population of more than 10,000 when it comes to overall crime in 2011, with the number one rank going to the community of North Battleford, Sask. for having the highest crime rate.
While Brissard says he wishes Williams Lake has the least amount of crime in Canada and placed 239th on the list, he says the stats show there has been some improvement — in 2008 and 2009, Williams Lake was ranked at number 1 in Canada for having the highest crime rate.
“It is getting better,” he says. “Now we get excited if we have a stolen vehicle because it’s a rarity. There’s no question it’s getting better.”
He says there are numerous reasons why Williams Lake has seen a decrease in crime, such as the prolific offenders program, engagement with community partners, and dedicated volunteers.
About a dozen people are on the prolific offenders program list in Williams Lake.
“It’s not like we’ve changed somebody and brought them from one side of the fence to the other,” he notes. “A big component of that is if you don’t get it, you go to jail.”
He says there seems to be a rise in domestic violence, though it’s not known if the situation has worsened or if more victims are reporting abuse.
“I think what you are seeing is victims saying that’s enough,” Brissard says. “I think it’s that educational component where, listen, I don’t have to be victimized and I am going to stand my ground.”
He adds that there are numerous resources for victims to access, including Victim Services and the Women’s Contact Society, which make a positive difference.
He says one of the barriers the Williams Lake RCMP face in reducing crime is a lack of resources, not just in the form of police officers, but also when it comes to support staff.
“The city has been very good to us in recent years and we have seen an increase in our municipal support staff,” he notes, adding that an extra support staff person helps take some of the administrative duties off an officer’s plate so he or she can be out working in the community.
While the city received a ranking of six for overall crime, it received a five for violent crime and a seven for non-violent crime.
Mayor Kerry Cook has previously noted that the city’s overall crime severity value for 2011 is 198.2, whereas it used to be 348.1, showing a 43 per cent reduction in crime.