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‘No light at the end of the tunnel’: Police shortage at local detachment

RCMP staffing not expected to improve soon, says detachment commander
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Street crew and community policing now part of general duty component. (Contributed photo)

The Terrace RCMP detachment is so short of police officers it has shelved the specialized squad that patrolled the downtown area, assigning its community policing officer to other duties.

The officers who normally form the Crime Reduction Unit, popularly called the street crew, and the community policing position are now part of the detachment’s general duty component.

RCMP detachment commander Staff Sgt. Terry Gillespie told city council Feb. 28, that he doesn’t expect the staffing situation to improve anytime soon.

“We just don’t have the manpower to staff them,” Gillespie said of the downtown unit and community policing officer. “Unfortunately that will hamper some of the proactive efforts we were previously making.”

Of 38 officer positions approved to cover both the city and surrounding area, there are now just 29 on duty, meaning that the staffing level is now below 80 per cent, said Gillespie in presenting the detachment’s fourth quarter report for 2022.

These positions do not include highway patrol officers, regional general investigative and other specialized officers who work with smaller detachments.

Gillespie said the shortage of officers is being felt everywhere, adding that people aren’t as attracted to policing as they once were.Specific to the RCMP, Gillespie said the force has already cancelled half its planned 2023 training programs.

“I wish I had more positive news,” he said. “In the short term there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Gillespie did have praise for the officers he has left, describing them as the “cream of the crop.”

“They’re out there pounding the pavement. They’re just really a great team to work with,” he said.

One local policing bright spot is reducing the number of prolific offenders out on the streets, something that’s been a sore point among residents and business owners for the past several years.

Gillespie said the detachment now writes bail comments on prolific offenders beforehand so that when they are arrested and presented before a judge, the judge has full knowledge of the person’s previous activities.

“Generally if someone is arrested for a serious crime and we are seeking that they be detained until trial, we only have a couple of hours to complete our report to crown counsel to seek their detention. Having the pre-written bail comments saves our members valuable time as they are building the report to crown counsel,” he said.

Over the fourth quarter of last year, three prolific offenders were placed on court-ordered conditions to live at recovery houses and seek treatment in Kamloops and Victoria, two were released but have been ordered not to be in Terrace and two were jailed at the regional correctional centre in Prince George.

Mayor Sean Bujtas called Gillespie’s statistics on prolific offenders “fantastic,” adding that while there is still crime in the community, he feels the frequency has gone down.

Gillespie also pointed to the 106 foot patrols conducted in the last three months of 2022 and to the 150 curfew checks of prolific offenders during the same period.





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