Drunk driving, domestic abuse, and overdoses all increasing, says Vernon's top cop - InfoNews

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Drunk driving, domestic abuse, and overdoses all increasing, says Vernon's top cop

Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
May 15, 2020 - 8:00 AM

The Vernon North Okanagan RCMP has seen an increase in impaired driving, domestic abuse, overdoses, and mental health calls since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the officer in charge of the detachment said.

Vernon RCMP Supt. Shawna Baher told Vernon council May 11 of the increases, which appear to follow provincial and national patterns. 

"We do seem to be going up in calls, anecdotally, for impaired drivers, we're also going up in calls in relation to domestic violence and we're also going up in mental health calls," she said. "I am concerned moving out of the pandemic."

To date, Vernon RCMP only has exact numbers up to March 31. In the first quarter of 2020, the RCMP issued 60 impaired driving charges or suspensions across Vernon and the North Okanagan. Baher said overdoses had also increased since the pandemic.

According to Interior Health, so far in 2020, there have been four overdose fatalities in Vernon. In 2019 there were 15 overdose deaths in the city. Interior Health announced May 11, an overdose prevention site would soon be opening in the city.

The anecdotal numbers from the North Okanagan detachment follow suit with statistics reported from various organizations in the Interior.

The Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon branch reported a 20 per cent increase in calls to its Interior Crisis Line in the first few weeks of the pandemic.

The Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society reported a drop in the number of domestic assault complaints in the first few weeks of the pandemic. But the lull was just a pause in complaints being reported as numbers in April rose again. The Society reported RCMP officers on the frontline saying they were seeing more cases of domestic abuse.

It seems highly likely that impaired driving would increase during the pandemic as a quarter of Canadians aged between 35 and 54 said they are drinking more since being at home due to COVID-19.

The second quarter Vernon North Okanagan RCMP report will show a more precise breakdown and should be released this summer.

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