Houston saw a shift, but no overall rise in the crime rate last year.
Police data on reported crimes for 2011 show that property crimes continued to fall while there was an increase in the number of non-sexual assaults.
Reporting to mayor and council last week, Sgt. Sean Wadelius said that while the RCMP do have some particular concerns, overall it’s clear that Houston continues to be a relatively quiet town.
“I still assert that Houston is one of the safest communities I’ve ever lived in,” he said.
According to the 2011 data, reported thefts fell from 139 in 2010 to 113 last year—a 19 per cent drop that follows a similar decrease from 2009. Those figures include theft of over or under $5,000, mischief and possession of stolen property.
Looking at those numbers, Wadelius told councillors that Houston does not have the sort of rampant theft associated with habitual drug use.
Drug-related crimes have also fallen steadily since 2009.
But Houston did see reported assaults rise from 50 in 2010 to 73 last year—a 46 per cent jump. Complaints of disturbances and public drinking were also up from last year, which Sgt. Wadelius said is partly why RCMP had more people in cells last year.
Sgt. Wadelius also said the RCMP dealt with a number of people, generally known to police, who repeatedly broke their bail conditions or probation orders.
In terms of problem areas, Wadelius said the Houston RCMP had 97 call-outs to a single apartment building on Sullivan Way last year.
A manager at that apartment building said several problem tenants had to be evicted late last year, and that so far that has led to fewer disturbances. Staff at the building are also in close contact with the RCMP and local community services groups, the manager said.
In council, Mayor Holmberg thanked the RCMP for their service to the community and for presenting the report. Council had heard rumours from residents that crime rates were higher this year, he said.
Coun. Rick Lundrigan asked Sgt. Wadelius how B.C.’s costlier drunk driving penalties affected the number of 24-hour driving prohibitions.
In the fall of 2010, the province revised B.C. laws to add more costly and more roadside penalties for impaired drivers. Premier Clark said in November that the changes led to a 40 per cent lower rate of deaths due to impaired driving.
But Wadelius warned that on that issue in particular, councillors should not take the reported number—a 60 per cent drop in Houston’s roadside prohibitions—at face value.
“I don’t think there’s any difference out there,” he said, explaining that staff transfers and other changes at the Houston/Granisle RCMP detachment meant officers had less time to target impaired drivers in 2011.
On Dec. 23, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that B.C.’s new impaired driving laws are unconstitutional because they give drivers no way to appeal a 30-day roadside ban if they blow over the .08 limit.
Wadelius said that in the experience of the Houston RCMP, the revised driving laws cut the time it takes to pull impaired drivers off the road from as long as two hours to as little as 20 minutes.
The province is expected to introduce a revised version of its impaired driving laws sometime in June.