Maple Ridge’s policing costs ring in at $17 million

RCMP workload more than twice that of Abbotsford’s

Maple Ridge’s Mounties have twice the workload as their city cop counterparts in Abbotsford, according to a recent presentation to council.

RCMP in this district have 84 cases per officer compared to 42 for each City of Abbotsford police officer, say statistics from 2010.

Maple Ridge also has a higher crime rate (the number of crimes reported per 1,000 population) – 95 compared to 64 in Abbotsford, which has a municipal force.

Top RCMP brass were at council last week to review RCMP costs to the district, including Assist. Commissioner Norm Lipinsky and Chief Supt. Janice Armstrong, who used to run the Maple Ridge detachment.

Total policing costs to taxpayers this year ring in at more than $17 million, one of the largest costs of running the district.

That will pay for 89 officers this year, including constables, community safety officers, corporals and sergeants in the detachment, which also polices Pitt Meadows.

The report says there are 60 constables serving Maple Ridge, with yearly salaries topping out at $78,000, while a total of 22 officers cover Pitt Meadows.

Maple Ridge also has three community safety officers, hired because of their cheaper costs, although their salaries top out $67,000.

Those wages are due to increase by 3.11 per cent in 2013, bringing the total bill for salaries in the detachment to $7.5 million.

Council heard that, overall, policing costs are jumping by 4.6 per cent next year, while costs of the regional teams, such as the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, have climbed 10 per cent.

When it comes to overtime, Ridge Meadows Supt. Dave Walsh said the detachment is trying to keep a limit on that.

“Overtime for us isn’t a first resort, it’s a last resort.”

However, the budget for overtime is jumping from 7.9 per cent in 2013 to $600,000, after years of remaining stable.

“The overtime budget hasn’t increased for many years. So it’s time for an increase to meet our operational needs.

“We have quite a tight time frame over overtime and how it is used,” Walsh explained.

The reasons for bringing in officers for extra hours are to cover for those who are absent because of time spent testifying in court, covering special events, investigating complicated cases or covering for sick or vacationing officers. Approval from management is needed before constables rack up extra hours.

One area where costs have jumped is for benefits, such as health care and pensions, which have increased by up to 15 per cent.

One area where costs have dropped for cities and towns and district municipalities such as Maple Ridge is in the bill for integrated teams, such as police dog services. Thanks to the B.C. government now covering 70 per cent of the cost of regional teams, Maple Ridge will save about $150,000 a year.

RCMP are trying to find cost savings and efficiencies by using civilians for some duties, such as forensic identification, getting communities involved in crime prevention, using integrated teams, saving on car washes and cellphones, and doing bulk purchasing.

Max Xiao, regional director of finance and accounting, and Walsh walked council through the powerpoint presentation.

Given the fact that shifts run 24/7, the number of officers on shift may not be as many officers on duty as one would think, Walsh said. Each watch has a unit commander, a sergeant, patrol corporal, about 10 investigators, plus traffic officers.

“We do the best we can to keep our community safe. We do pro-active work as well as respond to calls for service.

“Maple Ridge is a safe community. Overall, our citizens and our community are getting good value for their tax dollars,” Walsh said.

“We recognize that policing is expensive.

We make every effort we’re doing the right things right.”

“We are aware of the need to be efficient and effective as we possibly can.”

Walsh said one area that’s taking a lot of police time is responding to mental health calls, which often requires officers to wait in hospitals for care to be provided to individuals. Last year, they handled 665 such incidents.

“This is a significant draw on police resources.”

It’s an increasing challenge, but one not unique to Maple Ridge.

Walsh said that when the economic times are tough, “We get busy. And in the past few years, we’ve been very busy.”

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