Crime and drug overdoses are still seeing significant increases in Port Alberni, according to RCMP officer in charge Inspector Brian Hunter.
Hunter presented his quarterly report at a council meeting on Monday, April 23, where he stated that the number of criminal offences has gone up by 32 percent for the quarter compared to last year. The increase is mostly driven by property crime, which is up by 52 percent.
“That’s drugs, one hundred percent drugs, that’s driving that,” Hunter said on Monday.
Drug overdoses for the quarter are up by 90 percent, and Port Alberni has the highest number of drug overdose deaths per capita on the Island, he added.
The detachment’s major crime unit is investigating a number of large files with drug traffickers, including a significant child exploitation investigation where adult males were selling drugs to teenage girls for sex.
“We have hundreds of hours into these investigations,” said Hunter. “We need to get to the root of what’s causing this.”
Like the last few quarters, Hunter said the community is experiencing a significant amount of recidivism with chronic offenders being charged and then released.
“Our job is to catch these bad guys—and girls—and get them before the courts,” he said. “We have zero control after that. It has been frustrating at times for us.”
The detachment’s hard work is reflected in its clearance rate, said Hunter, as the percentage of crimes solved in Port Alberni is at 59 percent, compared to the provincial average of 27 percent.
Port Alberni’s RCMP detachment has drawn some criticism online, after a video of a mother taking down an alleged child predator was shared widely on social media. Although no charges have been laid in this incident, Hunter confirmed that there are two active investigations ongoing.
“Police work isn’t like a TV show,” he said, regarding some of the major investigations. “Arrests don’t just happen out of the blue. You have to have the evidence for that.”
He said he understands the frustrations of the community, given what information has been made available to the public.
“I’d probably be there, too, if I didn’t know the whole story,” he said. “And there’s a much bigger story to it.”
He also emphasized that the public should leave police work to the police, for safety reasons and also to avoid compromising an ongoing investigation.
“Somebody may have some good intentions out there, but it’s just dangerous,” he said.