Supt. Wendy Mehat (Ridge Meadows RCMP photo/ Special to The News)

Supt. Wendy Mehat (Ridge Meadows RCMP photo/ Special to The News)

Crimes against persons and property drop in Maple Ridge

Police grappling with issues of decriminalizing small amounts of illicit drugs

The Ridge Meadows RCMP saw crimes against persons and property drop in 2022 compared with the previous year, but officers are busier than ever.

That was one of the revelations as officer in charge Supt. Wendy Mehat gave an annual report to city council on Feb. 28.

Property crime dropped 13 per cent to 2,739 calls in 2022, and crimes against persons numbered 1,499, which was down two per cent. Insp. Adam Gander, who joined Mehat for the presentation, noted those stats “are trending well for us.”

However, overall calls for police service were up six per cent, to 20,457 calls.

“It’s interesting that our persons and property crimes are down, but our calls for service are actually up,” said Gander.

He said modern policing involves more calls involving mental health situations than crimes in previous years.

These calls generated 1,299 mental health files in Maple Ridge alone. That was down 16 per cent, but officer wait times and hospital rose three per cent to 1,425 hours. This is time officers spent waiting to refer a person to a doctor.

In 2022, police referred 1,212 files to Crown counsel recommending charges. A neighbouring detachment referred 1,130 files, but that larger station has 40 per cent more officers than Ridge Meadows, said Gander.

“Our officers are doing a really good job of getting that information into Crown, and charging when we can,” said Gander.

Mehat noted the case load per officer is up to 68 criminal code offences in Maple Ridge. By comparison, Coquitlam is at 41 per officer, Port Coquitlam 43, Surrey 47, and Pitt Meadows 43.

“So we are a busy detachment, we have very hard-working officers here that I’m extremely proud of,” said Mehat.

Talking about road safety, which Gander called a particular concern in this community, he noted there were 234 impaired driving investigations, down 16 per cent from 2021, and 1,106 violation tickets, which was down nine per cent.

READ ALSO: Nearly 7 British Columbians died a day from toxic drugs in January

Police can deploy Black Cat technology to monitor speeding on a roadway or in a given neighbourhood, and target enforcement.

The past year saw Project EPearlbush, a long-term drug project, result in the largest-ever fentanyl bust of 63,000 doses, and result in 19 charges.

Mehat noted the detachment is getting new information about the decriminalization of up to 2.5 grams of illicit drugs.

“For the first time that means that we will be housing drugs in our department that are not within the evidence compound, but may be with a prisoner’s effects,” noted Mehat.

She clarified open drug use will be prohibited in front of schools.

Coun. Sunny Schiller asked whether the city can designate other areas where open drug use can be banned.

Mehat said the new initiative remains a work in progress, and she will be meeting with a group of working partners in the city to address such issues.

All officers have Fraser Health referral cards, to give people using illicit drugs someone to call for support.

Mehat also briefed council about the ongoing de-integration with Pitt Meadows, which will have its own detachment in February 2025. Then 23 officers will be permanently transferred to Pitt Meadows, and each city will have its own detachment. Already a staff sergeant and a sergeant have transferred to Pitt Meadows to plan the de-integration.

READ ALSO: Pitt Meadows hires interim detachment commander to lead new RCMP detachment

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