Squamish has seen a dramatic spike in business break-ins, theft under $5,000 and assaults in 2010, reaching the same rate in the first six months as all of last year.
The spike is largely due to a rash of downtown crime, and substance abuse is often related, said RCMP Sea to Sky regional detachment officer Neil Cross in a presentation to District of Squamish council Tuesday (July 20).
Coun. Paul Lalli asked whether the downtown homeless shelter, which generated public complaints last year, was an area of focus.
"It's a controversial and touchy area," said south zone commander Staff Sgt. Guy Pollock. "My impression from speaking to officers is that it has improved and I believe it's improved."
Despite the uninspiring statistics, the RCMP is not disheartened - they have a plan to reduce crime by 10 per cent for the rest of 2010, and have focused enforcement measures to five key areas.
Pollock said priorities for 2010 are reducing traffic incidents, liquor related incidents, property crime such as tagging and general vandalism, youth crime and substance abuse.
Police plan to increase liquor charges, and have been working particularly hard to interact with the youth in the community and instil a sense of responsibility and accountability at an early age, said Cross.
"We have a high school liaison member in the school and one of the best DARE programs in the province," he said.
There are a few factors challenging the police's ability to enforce, however.
The local RCMP has 23 positions plus five provincial positions but are continuously slightly understaffed because of short term leaves for illness, injuries, transfers or paternal leaves.
"For example right now we have one guy with an injury, a corporal waiting to transfer in but he has to sell his home in the Lower Mainland first and a parental leave where the member took three months off for his child," said Cross.
"We can't pay people to come in for only two or three months because we'd have to pay for their food and accommodation."
Squamish also has nine volunteer RCMP auxiliary members, which increases police presence in town, Cross said.
Coun. Doug Race noted that contrary to Vancouver, where there are often two officers per vehicle, Squamish RCMP vehicles only carry one officer.
"Would we rather have two officers per vehicle but don't have sufficient coverage?" asked Race.
Pollock said teaming up RCMP members is "just not practical."
"We might have two or three low risk calls and we only have on average two or three members on the road," said Pollock. "Is it common practice? Yes. Is it ideal? No."
The absence of a local courtroom also leads to fewer RCMP members in the municipality's borders, said Cross, since they spend a great deal of time driving to and from court in North Vancouver.
On Jan. 17, 2002, the B.C. government announced dramatic cuts to the provincial budget and the shutting down of 23 courthouses, including the Squamish provincial courthouse.
Provincial representatives have promised its reopening at various times.
In June 2006, unconfirmed reports stated Attorney General Wally Oppal agreed to a joint proposal from Squamish and Whistler that would see monies currently spent sending RCMP to court in North Vancouver diverted instead to bringing a courthouse back to the Sea to Sky Corridor.
But police have said a lack of appropriates facilities hindered the plan.