The Revelstoke crime rate was down significantly in 2014 for the second consecutive year, dropping by more than 14 per cent from 2013.
There were 784 incidents recorded by the Revelstoke RCMP in 2014 — 617 within city limits and the rest in the rural area.
The crime rate for the city, which excludes traffic violations, was 5,927 per 100,000 people — the lowest level since at least 1998 (the available statistics only go back that far). The B.C. crime rate was 7,599 per 100,000 people last year.
Revelstoke fairs well compared to other communities, though comparisons are difficult because some cities serve as the business centre for large rural populations, driving up crime rates. Still, looking at only statistics for municipal police forces, Revelstoke ranks 26th out of 75 communities.
The Crime Severity Index – which measures crime based on its severity (a murder is weighted higher than a petty theft) – also dropped in Revelstoke, to 59.43, a 15 per cent decline from the previous year. The provincial rate was 91.63.
“Revelstoke is an extremely safe place to be,” said Staff-Sgt. Kurt Grabinsky. “Our violent crime CSI is extremely low.”
Revelstoke RCMP also do well when it comes to clearing incidents. Of 427 criminal code violations (not including traffic) in Revelstoke, 37 per cent were cleared and 18 per cent resulted in charges. Province-wide, 27 per cent of violations were cleared and 15 per cent resulted in charges.
Marijuana number one
Marijuana possession is the top crime in Revelstoke, according to the data released by Statistics Canada, but local police say they don’t target pot smokers — it’s just that there’s a lot of the stuff passing through here, and it’s an easy one to uncover.
“I would say that it’s usually just very easy to catch,” said Grabinsky. “There’s a lot of product being moved on this highway. A lot of marijuana being moved from community to community that probably feeds the east of Canada, and if we’re on the highway, we will locate it.”
The Revelstoke RCMP charged 206 people with possession of marijuana last year, with 105 of those people caught within city limits and the rest in the rural area, which includes people caught on the Trans-Canada Highway.
In the city alone, the crime rate for cannabis possession in Revelstoke is 1,458 per 100,000 people, the highest amongst municipal police forces in B.C. and more than 4.5 times the provincial rate.
“It is a lifestyle and it is sometime considered an open lifestyle in a community like Revelstoke,” said Grabinsky. “When it’s such an open lifestyle, it’s easy for the police to observe it, and it’s easy for the public to complain. When they do, we attend to it and manage the report.”
According to Statistics Canada, Nelson, which has a reputation as a major marijuana centre, had a marijuana possession rate of 562 per 100,000 people. In Whistler, the rate was 1,069 per 100,000 people. Only Williams Lake, with a rate of 1,302 per 100,000 people came close.
Of 105 incidents of marijuana possession in city limits, less than a quarter were charged, while 72 are listed as “cleared otherwise.”
Grabinsky said circumstances will dictate whether or not someone is charged.
“It depends on the possession amount. It depends on whether the person possesses a license,” he said. “However, if we find a person with 10 kilograms of marijuana, the police officer will use their discretion and choose to charge.”
This reflects the experience of Dinah Collette, a pro-marijuana activist and owner of the Spice O’ Life Emporium, which sells smoking paraphernalia. She said she never hears of people getting charged for marijuana possession, but does frequently hear of people getting their pipes or other smoking devices confiscated.
Minor thefts common
The second most common type of crime was theft under $5,000, of which there were 122 reported incidents last year. Grabinsky said lots of these were cases of thieves going after easy targets.
“A large number of the ones we’re receiving reports on are unlocked, unattended, vehicle idling, vehicles with keys in them, bikes without locks, garages without locks,” he said. “It’s those kinds of things that we are seeing and we are working very hard in the community to get people to secure their items.
“I think if we can get the message out to people to take responsibility and secure their things, we can improve that number,” he added.
Of the 122 thefts, only 13 were cleared, and only four resulted in a charge.
Vehicle thefts above average
Revelstoke also had a high number of vehicle thefts, with 28 reported in the city last year for a rate of 388.67 per 100,000 people — higher than the provincial rate of 324.36. Another two vehicle thefts took place in the rural area.
“It is higher, and I think that is because we are a targeted place for stolen snowmobiles,” said Grabinsky. “Usually the truck is getting stolen with it. A truck, trailer and four sleds, is six vehicles that is stolen, so that has an impact on us statistically.”
Of the 30 vehicle thefts last year, none ended up in a charge. On the positive side, the number of vehicle thefts was down from 37 in 2013 and a recent high of 52 in 2012.
Grabinsky said the bait sled program – which hasn’t resulted in any arrests in Revelstoke – has had a deterrence effect. “We know the presence was completely different this year because of the knowledge of the bait sled,” he said.
The success rate of apprehending vehicle thieves is not good — out of 198 recorded incidents in the last five years, only six resulted in charges.
The Revelstoke RCMP objectives this year are youth crime, traffic safety, property crimes, violence and substance abuse.
Grabinsky said the RCMP are active in the schools supporting the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.).
He said they have been actively engaged in matters of domestic violence, and patrol at night to respond to any bar fights.
“I attribute to our actions as police being very visible, having a good strong presence and being able to intervene so no one gets hurt when they want to go out at night,” he said.
Violent incidents are usually between people that know each other,” Grabinsky added.
They will continue to encourage people to be more careful with their own property to reduce thefts.
“We continue to be very active in the community. We want to keep the crime rates as low as possible,” he said. “We want Revelstoke to a be a safe place that tourists come to and that community members feel comfortable being in, but we ask them to try not to leave things out in the open for the public to grab.”