Pitt Meadows council will consider adding another RCMP officer this year during budget deliberations.
That was the message from mayor John Becker in response to a citizen complaint at council, as Patricia Gordon asked about rising crime in the city.
She said two bus shelters have been smashed, bicycles stolen and vehicles broken into.
The mayor said the extra funding would be a significant increase. Using round figures, he said a “cop and a car” generally comes at a cost of $150,000 to the municipality, and in Pitt Meadows a one per cent tax increase is needed to raise approximately $160,000 in operating revenue.
In 2016, Pitt Meadows is budgeted to spend $4.78 million on policing, which is 28 per cent of the total operating budget.
The increase would take the city’s complement of officers up to 23.
Ridge Meadows RCMP statistics show a decrease in crime in Pitt Meadows for the first eight months of this year, until Sept. 4, compared to the same period in 2015.
Residential break-ins dropped from 27 to 20, commercial break-ins have dropped from 27 to 14, and thefts from autos dropped from 211 to 163 this year.
“The fact we’re not facing a crime wave means the status quo is what we want to maintain,” said Becker. “It’s a very safe community.”
Becker said the RCMP has suggested an increase in staffing, and “it seems to make sense to me, at this time.”
“It will be up to council.”
Coun. Janis Elkerton also supports the hiring. She said policing issues have not been as pressing in Pitt Meadows as they are in Maple Ridge, and the RCMP presence in the city has not been an issue. She wants to keep it that way.
“I think it [another officer] is a good idea,” said Elkerton. “We want to be proactive.”
Ridge Meadows RCMP Supt. Dave Fleugel said the new officer would be deployed in the south Pitt Meadows area. He said calls for speed enforcement in that area could be better addressed.
Asked why a new officer is needed when the crime rate is down, Fleugel said paperwork and non-criminal matters must also be considered.
“Workload has not decreased. Our call volume is going up,” said Fleugel.
Calls for people in crisis, or missing or suspicious persons are not always reflected in crime stats, but place demands on officers. And the administrative burden on officers has become “exhausting.”
Officers now have laptops in their cars, to keep them out on the road, but they must do “paperwork” for every call for service.
Pitt Meadows pays for 22 police officers of the 121 at the Ridge Meadows RCMP detachment.
Policing is done through both the Pitt Meadows Community Policing Office, and general duty police officers.
The police office in Pitt Meadows is staffed by three officers from Monday to Friday. They work mostly day shifts.
In addition, there are always two general duty officers assigned to Pitt Meadows for each 12-hour shift.
There are two traffic services members who work out of Pitt Meadows full-time, as well as two plainclothes officers.
Two serious crime officers are assigned to Pitt Meadows, and two or three street enforcement unit officers investigate property crimes and drug trafficking there.
Coun. Bill Dingwall, a retired former RCMP superintendent, supports the hiring.
“I brought it up last year, but I was soundly defeated,” he said.
“Clearly when you add one member it helps with file loads and burnout … We’re keeping pace with where we need to be.”