Criminal activities within the Cochrane RCMP detachment area continued to decline in 2020, but there has been a marked increase in mental health calls, including those of local youth.
On July 12, Inspector Dave Brunner provided town council with a comprehensive overview of the Cochrane detachment's activities in 2020. He also provided some insight into trends, upcoming community outreach initiatives, and special projects.
The file count was down 14.6 per cent from 2019, a trend consistent across the nation during the pandemic.
Inspector Brunner said there was a noticeable drop in property-related crimes, and the crime reduction unit continues to focus on targeting prolific offenders.
He said the majority of property crimes in Cochrane continue to be committed by offenders from neighboring communities. Several projects were conducted to identify these offenders, and enforcement actions were taken in partnership with other detachments and agencies.
Break-ins were cut in half to 34 from 70 and were well below the peak of 88 in 2017.
Vehicles thefts did climb slightly to 49 from 46 in 2019 but were still sharply less than the 68 reported in 2018 and 85 in 2017.
Mental heath calls climbed 23.4 per cent and well-being checks increased 18.5 per cent.
Domestic violence numbers remained fairly consistent with 244 incidents reported, compared to 294 in 2019. Of those, 51 led to charges, compared to 53 the year previous.
Brunner says with the well-documented prolonged stressors caused by the pandemic, the detachment anticipates a continued rise in mental health issues.
"Mental health and domestic violence continue to be frontrunners of community issues, not just in this community but throughout Alberta and more or less Canada."
He says the RCMP district level believes mental health is becoming much more of an issue because it's integrated with addictions and stressors of the pandemic. He said a mental health district team is being created to specialize in mediations and high-risk calls. He says the detachment will be utilizing its services when the need arises.
Mental health issues aren't unique to adults, Brunner told council. There's a growing concern for how youth have been impacted by the pandemic.
"When we think of mental health, we sometimes automatically jump to the conclusion that it's adults that were dealing with. I'm going to tell you that during the pandemic, our youth liaison workers dealt with a lot of young kids that were having mental health issues. We had interventions with 10-year-olds that were suicidal. These are tragic things."
"Cancelled school, the isolation, parents being at home, and money being tight... all of these things added up and usually we see the adults having those issues but we saw a fair number of the youth in the community struggling."
He says they are launching some initiatives in conjunction with Victim Services to engage youth, including a positive ticketing campaign. They'll also integrate it with similar activities in the Stoney Nakoda Nation.
"I think it's a really good cultural integration between the two, which will assist in some of the understand that First Nations and Indigenous people are looking for, and also for the youth that are in this community to have a better understanding of the Indigenous people who live next door to us."
Traffic violations continued to top offenses but the volume of pro-active traffic stops was significantly lessened to reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19.
The detachment is examining the common complaint of loud vehicles.
"We've assigned one of our traffic members that will be going to these locations and spending some time and making some observations, recording through our vehicles to see what the sound levels are off the street. We're going to see what we can do to try and alleviate some of the concerns of the citizens on the street noise."
He says it is a complex issue and involves navigating provincial legislature with the assistance of traffic services, Alberta Sheriffs in addition to utilizing the resources of the RCMP.
The Cochrane detachment will be further advancing public engagement with a pair of town hall meetings, expected to take place in the fall. They had been in the works for some time but were delayed due to the pandemic.