Port Alberni saw a decrease in crime overall at the end of 2022, but an increase in violent crime mostly driven by a string of armed robberies.
Sergeant Mike Thompson of the Port Alberni RCMP presented the detachment’s quarterly report for the last three months of 2022 (October to December) to city council on Monday, Jan. 23. The report shows that overall, criminal offences were down by eight percent for the quarter compared to the same time in 2021, with the number of property crime offences down by 21 percent. Thompson attributes this decrease to the department’s crime reduction unit, which has been working on targeted enforcement operations with curfew checks.
“We’ve really tried to focus on making sure that the people who are supposed to be in their homes are in their homes when they’re supposed to be there,” said Thompson.
However, despite the overall decrease in crime, violent offences were up by 32 percent for the quarter compared to the previous quarter.
Thompson attributes most of this increase to a string of armed robberies that took place over a five-day period in November and December. The RCMP detachment believes that all of the robberies were committed by one person. Angus Brown, 25, is currently being held in police custody and faces 13 charges related to the robberies.
“That really pushes the numbers up,” Thompson explained on Monday.
In December, a stabbing in the 3600 block of Fourth Avenue left one person dead and several others injured, and Thompson said there were also a couple of home invasions at the end of the year that added to the number of violent offences.
“Certainly that’s concerning for a community like this, to have what would be considered ‘big city crime’ coming to Port Alberni,” said Thompson. “We’re not naive to the fact that this is increasingly a reality.”
Thompson emphasized to council that Port Alberni is a safe city to live in, but it is challenged by “a huge contingent” of people struggling with mental health or substance use issues.
“So oftentimes that translates into a rise in certain types of crime,” said Thompson. He added that a small number of people are often responsible for significant number of crimes. He said the RCMP have brought in mental health training, and are working on referring people to health services instead of the criminal justice system.
“We’re trying to deal with some of the files that we have in a different way,” he said. “Bringing on additional resources and specialized techniques to be able to address that is something that we’ve focused on very seriously in the last two to three months.”
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