By Cole Parkinson
Like most years, 2019 was another busy 12 months for the Taber/Vauxhall RCMP detachment.
As a way to get an overall view of the year, Municipal District of Taber had requested stats to be presented as 2019 versus 2018 during the RCMP’s first delegation in 2020 on Jan. 14.
Stats are presented with 2018 in brackets: Impaired driving/24 hour/30 day suspension 53 (43), assaults 33 (41), break and enter 31 (20), thefts 79 (87), threats 10 (13), mischief 38 (60), Controlled Drugs and Substances Act 6 (8), other Criminal Code / other statutes 290 (346), assistance to police/other agencies/general public 99 (109), 9-1-1 hang ups 415 (269), false alarms 18 (40), abandoned vehicles 38 (28), animal calls 38 (55), suspicious persons/vehicles 91 (55), lost and found property 32 (29), Firearms Act 10 (13), check stops 12 (20), traffic complaints 562 (455), traffic collisions 229 (215), bylaw complaints 14 (21), admin files 38 (74), total 2,136 (2,001).
Overall, the RCMP was happy with how the year shaped out.
While they generally like to see a decrease, one area they were happy to see an increase was suspicious persons/vehicles.
“This may seem like a sharp increase but this is actually a great number because it means they were called in,” said Sgt. Gord Yetman. “Our call volume between 2018 and 2019 jumped up, it’s over 100 files. To me, it is fairly significant. It shows we are getting more calls, and clearly, if you look at the number of suspicious persons and vehicles we got, we close to doubled that number. The credit for that goes squarely to the citizens of the M.D. which is great. So every time I’ve come to council and said people need to call, they obviously now call us. That is the one number I like to see an increase.”
While not a file from 2019, in early 2020, the RCMP saw the direct benefit from a suspicious vehicle call that led to an arrest of two individuals.
“This would have been a January call but I will throw it in here because it is a good story in regard to the suspicious persons calls. We got a call about a suspicious vehicle parked on the side of the road. A local resident called it in, so myself and Corporal (Brian) Weisbrod drove out to this one. The caller didn’t give us a whole lot of details. We get there and the vehicle is parked on the side of the road so Corporal Weisbrod radioed in the plate number right off the bat and the plate came back as stolen. So, as a result of that call, we recovered the vehicle, which was full of stolen property, and we were able to arrest a male and a female. We charged both with possession of stolen property plus a slew of other offences,” said Yetman. “That is indicative of the good work our members are doing out within the M.D. of Taber.”
A question from council was asked of what the numbers represented, whether it be arrests made or files investigated.
“That is just what we have dealt with, that’s what we’ve got calls on. The numbers I read out to you are the number of calls of that particular variety over that period,” explained Yetman.
With close to 150 extra 9-1-1 hang-ups in 2019, council has continued to express concern with the number of resources spent on fielding those calls.
“It’s a 50 per cent increase year over year, when is it going to stop? Is there anything that can be done to eliminate this because it continues to grow,” asked Coun. John Turcato.
With this persistent issue, Yetman explained how the detachment has taken to try to tackle 9-1-1 hang-ups.
“We are going to find that, our members have done quite a bit of research on this topic, and what it is boiling down to is the number of towers in our detachment area and the proximity of the towers to our detachment area. One of the biggest things we are finding is one of the biggest culprits is not kids playing with cellphones. What we have found is the biggest problem is international cellphones. Cellphones that are not registered or do not originate from this country. When they are dealing with their country of origin or whatnot, that is where the majority of the false 9-1-1 calls are coming from,” he replied. “We actually conducted a bit of a test a couple of months ago. We tracked down a number and basically what we did was have the family voluntarily turn over every cell phones in the house, and the number within the house was quite impressive actually between inactive and active cellphones. They turned each one over to us and it was a process of elimination and we were pretty confident we had the main offender and then all of a sudden when we had their cellphones, the number called again. It was then back to square one.”
While they have continued to discuss the issue each month during the RCMP’s monthly delegation, the number of calls continues to be high but as of right now, Yetman explained there wasn’t much to be done on a local level to curb the issue.
“In order to stop these from occurring, I don’t think it is anything that we can do and I don’t believe there is a whole lot our elected officials can do. I think it boils down to service providers, tower owners and et cetera. So maybe the big cellphone companies would have to dive deeper into this and that is, unfortunately, that is where it is at. We are continuing to investigate them,” said Yetman. “With the M.D. of Taber and our detachment area, I think we are seeing a perfect storm of conditions.”
Even with 415 9-1-1 hang-ups recorded in 2019, and more expected in 2020, Yetman is more than confident his team will be able to handle whatever is thrown at them.
“As I’ve said before, our detachment is up to the challenge. Our members are doing some fantastic work. As you are probably aware, we don’t advertise, the RCMP does not advertise. When we are solving crimes, we are not calling people to tell them we solved them. We do put out press releases when necessary, but the majority of our work goes unnoticed.”