PENTICTON - Penticton’s new top cop is interested in getting to the heart of the matter when it comes to crime in the region, indicating a willingness to work with the public and other agencies to fight crime.
Supt. Ted De Jager spoke to around 200 people at room at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre last night, July 12, with could have held up to 300.
De Jager received mixed reviews, judging by open mike comments, on his message of cooperation between community stakeholders, government agencies and the public to work together to reduce crime.
He hopes to free up police resources by reducing nuisance calls and targeting prolific offenders while engaging other community agencies to ensure those with mental health or drug addiction issues get the help they need.
De Jager said his detachment’s priorities in the coming months centred around road safety, reducing domestic violence, crime reduction and community engagement.
Using statistics and graphs to compare Okanagan cities, he showed crime trends were similar in terms of spikes and lows in criminal activity, which appeared to be seasonally based.
De Jager also made crime comparisons between the cities based on the number of incidents per 1,000 residents, saying these statistics were the most meaningful when it came to assessing Penticton criminal activity.
“I want to see these numbers come down,” he said.
De Jager said second quarter statistics revealed 443 theft files, of which half were theft from vehicles.
“What you see that emergency vehicle going to, that general duty member in the marked police car, in full uniform, is theft and nine times out of ten that theft is over and long gone,” he told the gathering. "Half of those are thefts from autos, and the majority of those thefts the door was unlocked on the car."
"So, your police force is spending, relative to all the other types of crime, the majority of their time chasing after wallets, and iPhones, and computers that were left in unlocked cars,” he said.
“If we want to start focussing on the hot spots, if we want to start focussing on the people who are committing the majority of crimes in our communities, we need to get those things down, and that’s where you come in,” he said.
De Jager also spoke about Penticton's two recent homicides, noting violent crime files made up four per cent of the detachments’s call volume. He said the two homicides were attributable to domestic violence and lifestyle, posing no threat to the public beyond those involved.
“That perception that this is a violent community starts to wane a bit when you look at that. It’s a very safe community, we just need to make it safer."
Of all files investigated by the Penticton detachment, De Jager says 64 per cent of those result in no charges laid. The solution, he said, was not more officers, but better use of existing police resources.
“It’s not about throwing people in jail, it’s about getting them the help they need,” De Jager said, adding by addressing root causes of crime, the community would start to see change. “More money won’t help."
Moving forward, De Jager said he would like to see a public safety committee formed, noting Penticton once had a group of citizens in that role.
He expects to add an additional member to the detachment’s Targeted Enforcement Unit and also plans to start a community support and enforcement team that can help deal with mental health, community and youth issues.
De Jager would also like to see the formation of a HUB network that would bring police, social and community groups together for immediate intervention and solutions to crime related issues in the region.
“What about you? Where do you get involved?” De Jager finished, noting service groups like Block Watch, Citizens on Patrol, and Community Policing were all in need of volunteers.
He reached out to those with vigilante sentiments, noting Citizens on Patrol was a good way to help police monitor the community.
“When they call, our members respond,” he said.
De Jager also urged the public not to be victims and be good witnesses, by ensuring they took security precautions with their valuables, and monitoring suspicious activity in their neighbourhoods.
In the open mike forum that followed De Jager’s presentation, residents expressed enthusiasm for De Jager’s comments, while others insisted it was a message they’d heard before.
One resident complained about a lack of police response over a drug house next door, telling De Jager, “You gentlemen did absolutely nothing. Listening to you, I don’t think things are going to change,” to which De Jager said he couldn’t comment on the specific incident but would follow up with the resident on the issue.
Another resident said it wasn’t up to her not to be a victim, after dutifully locking her valuables up and continuously having them stolen.
“I’ve even had my lawn ornaments stolen. What the hell are they doing with my lawn ornaments?” she asked.
She also expressed concerns about a lack of police enforcement on a nearby drug house, telling the superintendent that her policing concerns were not being taken seriously.
“It’s not just you, it’s my MP and my MLA, “ she said, noting the presence of MP Dick Cannings and MLA Dan Ashton in the room.
DeJager replied that her concerns would be taken seriously in the coming months, adding police were looking at ways to deal with the drug houses in the city.
Another woman said she had "listened to a whole lot tonight.”
“Kudos to you all. I could never be a cop,” she said, adding she thought De Jager was credible and his plans to deal with nuisance calls to reallocate police resources was “huge.”
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