PROPERTY crimes in West Vancouver continued a decline in the first half of 2011, while the number of drug busts jumped, according to numbers presented to council July 4 alongside the police department's new strategic plan.
Drug charges were the only crime stat to show an increase in 2011 compared to the average over the past five years, with a 31 per cent jump to 104 from 79. About 70 per cent of those busts were on roads and highways, said Michelle Brander, the department's crime analyst,.
She explained many of the busts came from road stops where officers noticed something suspicious. "The purpose of road blocks is not just to pick up impaired drivers . . . they also serve to prevent, deter and sometimes identify some of our commuter criminals who are travelling into West Vancouver to commit crime."
In sexual assaults, as well, the number of incidents jumped to 12 from an average of 4.6 over the last five years. Brander said seven of those were historical incidents that occurred sometimes decades before but were only reported this year.
Total calls for service also increased one per cent, but other than that the news was positive. Violent crimes were down two per cent compared to the five-year average, while property crime was down 35 per cent, car crashes causing injury were down 20 per cent and other non-injury crashes down 26 per cent. Property crime peaked in 2003, but still accounts for most of the calls police receive.
Chief Constable Peter Lepine told the North Shore News the overall decline is a turnaround from just two years ago, when West Vancouver's crime rate was on the rise while the rest of the region was showing declining crime. He said the property crime reduction in particular has been made by focusing on repeat offenders, something they plan to carry over in their plan for the next three years.
The 2011-2013 strategic plan sets four goals: enhanced public safety; increased community engagement; improved leadership and governance; and effective resource management. Included in the public safety portion there are specific goals to reduce crime committed by repeat offenders, First Nations and youth and to reduce collisions by 10 per cent to 20 per cent a year.
Lepine told council the department will achieve that by focusing on the statistics and evidence they gather, as well as learning from other departments. Progress will be measured against benchmarks set this year.
"Work on the goals and measurables has already been done," he said, adding reporting timelines and updates on the progress will be posted on the department's website.
In some areas, said Lepine, education is much more effective than enforcement, focusing in particular on mischief at schools. This year, police went out to schools to talk about the amount of damage schools often face during the summer months, and so far this year that damage has dropped.
"What we found this year is that our total damage was actually down this time around, so a great opportunity to make that connection with the kids and actually talk to them about the ramifications of their decisions, which many thought of as just a practical joke," he said.
The full plan is available online at wvpd.ca or at the detachment.