White Rock police continue to respond to a significant number of mental-health-related calls.
According to a report shared with council last week, officers were dispatched to 93 calls that had a mental-health component between Jan. 1 and March 31 of this year – an increase of more than 150 per cent, compared t0 the first quarter of 2021, when 36 reports were logged.
In sharing the latest stats, the city’s top cop encouraged implementation of a key recommendation of the recently released Transforming Policing and Community Safety report – “appropriately funding the continuum of response to mental health, addictions and other complex social issues.”
“This alone could fundamentally change policing and community health,” Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls said in his May 9 presentation.
“Mental health care, access to addictions treatment, housing for the spectrum of needs, and support for our young people to avoid and overcome adverse environments, impact policing. More training and education for police in these areas will have some impacts, but funding the systems of care are paramount to success.”
Pauls has been raising concerns around the issue locally for nearly two years. In August 2020, he called for a “healthcare-led intervention model.” Following that, he issued a report in October 2020 recommending that the City of White Rock start billing Fraser Health for mental-health apprehensions in which waits for assessment at Peace Arch Hospital exceed 30 minutes.
That report noted that annually, White Rock officers respond to around 150 calls that have a mental-health component, resulting in approximately 375 hours of police time being spent at PAH waiting with such patients and thereby, rendering those officers unable to respond to other calls, including priority emergencies.
In addressing council this month, Pauls said he looks forward to recommendations of the TPCS report being “robustly implemented.”
“Let White Rock be the pilot area for any grand changes.”
Responding to a question from Mayor Darryl Walker regarding whether the numbers included repeat encounters with the same individuals, Pauls said, “they have remained constant, I think is the best answer to that.”
“There are some individuals that are complex to deal with, even for the health-care system,” he continued.
“They tend to fall to us because they’re resistant to seeking help, and we tend to be the only help they do get. So it is challenging.”
In all, White Rock RCMP fielded 1,606 calls for service from January to March, compared to 1,563 for the same three months in 2021.
Other highlights of the quarter include a decline in the number of recommended criminal charges, to 28 from 45 in the same quarter of 2021; and a 50 per cent increase in vehicle thefts, to 15 from 10.
A total of 421 “criminal occurrences” were reported, and Pauls said most of those were minor. Fewer than five sexual offences were reported.
Property crime was the most frequent complaint, comprising 54 per cent of reports.
Forty-seven per cent of 64 ‘crimes against person’ reported were for uttering threats, criminal harassment or harassing communications.
Traffic-enforcement stats were also included in the update. This quarter, police had 468 “interactions” with motorists, including 272 in March alone.
Asked about the enforcement of speeds along Johnston Road, Pauls said he is a proponent of speed humps.
“I like engineered approaches to speed enforcement, because they’re there 24 hours a day,” he explained. “I guess they have a high front-end cost, but I think they’re much more effective than police enforcement.”
Pauls said enhanced policing will begin on Marine Drive this coming May long weekend (May 20-23), meaning extra officers will be on duty along the strip Fridays through Sundays, with adjustments to accommodate events and long weekends.
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