Despite an increase in crime at the beginning of 2019, Port Alberni RCMP Officer-in-Charge Inspector Brian Hunter still says Port Alberni is a “safe place to be.”
Hunter presented his quarterly report to Port Alberni City Council on Tuesday, April 23, covering January to March of 2019. According to Hunter’s report, criminal offences for the quarter were up 17 percent in Port Alberni compared to 2018, and property crime was up 15 percent. Thefts, shoplifting and frauds are seeing the largest increases.
Violent crime is also up “significantly,” with 132 calls for service compared to 80 for the same time period last year. This is largely driven by the number of assaults, of which 81 calls were recorded.
A change in crime reporting across Canada took effect in January of this year, which took away the “unsubstantiated” category in cases where there is not enough evidence to go to court. This change, said Hunter, will likely lead to an increase in the number of assault files reported to Statistics Canada.
However, Hunter added that the recent increase in assaults in Port Alberni is very real.
“That’s a significant increase,” he said.
But despite this increase, Hunter still believes that Port Alberni is a “safe place to be.” All of the assault cases took place between people who already knew each other, with the exception of two cases—one was an altercation between a cab driver and a client, and the other between a client at the overdose prevention and a volunteer. Many of the assaults were familial in nature, and drugs and alcohol were a contributing factor in some.
“These aren’t stranger-on-stranger assaults that are happening in this community,” said Hunter. “You can go to other communities where it’s not safe to walk through the park. That’s not what’s happening in Port Alberni.”
The new homeless shelter that recently opened on Eighth Avenue has not had an effect on the community’s crime rate. Hunter said the detachment has received “very few calls” related to the shelter—a number that has not significantly increased since construction of the new housing.
“Our community is different,” he added. “We’ve had supports for our residents for many, many years. This isn’t a situation where we had a tent city with hundreds of people.”
Mayor Sharie Minions said she was “thrilled” to hear the comments about the new shelter.
“I think it’s really a testament to the location of it,” she said. “And how the Shelter Society works in our community, how they’re supporting people and the relationship with the RCMP, as well.”
Hunter also addressed the rumour of criminals being “bused” to Port Alberni from other communities, and acknowledged that repeat offenders from outside of the Alberni Valley do occasionally commit crimes in Port Alberni. “To say there’s busloads of people coming into the community, I don’t have any evidence of that,” he added. “The majority of repeat offenders are from the community here.”
The major crime unit worked on several major investigations for the quarter, including two robberies a day apart from one another and an attempted murder. Both of these cases have been solved and led to arrests.