The RCMP’s national training academy closed in March due to COVID-19 concerns, causing a ripple effect in the Terrace area.
The City of Terrace increased police spending in its 2020 budget with the hope of increasing police presence in the region to respond to an increase in crime. But when the pandemic struck, the likelihood of getting more boots on the ground plummeted.
The Terrace RCMP detachment’s staff levels routinely fluctuate, as officers transfer away or go on leave, said Inspector Jayson Lucash, the officer in charge at the Terrace detachment. Replacement officers usually come straight out of the RCMP’s national training academy in Regina, known as Depot, which closed in March due to COVID-19 concerns, pinching off the main supply line of new officers to Terrace.
With Depot closed there will be a delay in replacing any departing officers, Lucash said.
“Terrace, for the most part, especially recently, we’ve gotten primarily recruits. Now, obviously, Depot is closed, I don’t have a time frame of when it’s going to open up, so again, there will be a lag,” he told The Terrace Standard.
Lucash said the goal is to maintain full ranks, but that isn’t always feasible.
“In a perfect world, yeah, I would like to have that member transfer out one day and their replacement start at the same time, and that’s what we strive for, but again … doesn’t always happen,” he said.
Depot remains closed and the RCMP are working with health authorities to determine the best approach for reopening the training facility, according to a spokesperson for the RCMP Depot Division.
After Depot closed, the City of Terrace reduced its police budget by $120,000, roughly equivalent to the cost of one officer for a year.
That could have resulted in a smaller-than-forecast tax hike at a time when many residents were upset the city was increasing spending despite financial pressures brought on by COVID-19.
Nevertheless, some councillors were so concerned about crime that a motion was passed 4-3, with the mayor breaking a tie, to spend a portion of that money to hire two seasonal bylaw officers to patrol downtown this summer. Councillor James Cordeiro identified dirty needles and violence as issues in the downtown core.
Heather Avison, chief administrative officer for the City, told The Terrace Standard there has been an increase in crime which is partially attributable to major resource developments nearby.
“That is definitely a factor in some of the increased criminal activity that we’re seeing in the region, and it’s actually pretty well-researched that large-scale economic development projects will attract that type of thing,” she said.
Data from Terrace RCMP quarterly reports to the City does seem to indicate an increase in crime in recent years. Terrace RCMP responded to 14,029 files in 2019, a 20 per cent increase over 2017, which saw police respond to 11,629 files.
Just last year, following lobbying by the City, provincial public safety minister Mike Farnsworth promised to create a four-officer relief team that could fill various vacant posts in the northwest as needed.
Staff Sergeant Michael Robinson, from the Terrace RCMP detachment, said the four-officer relief team had been created, but he was not certain if those four positions had been filled yet.
Representatives from North District RCMP in Prince George, the admininstrative headquarters in the north for the police force, did not respond to questions about the relief team by press deadline.