There’s violent crime and property crime in West Vancouver, but few things are more dangerous than the morning and afternoon commutes, according to police chief Len Goerke.
“All of us are more likely to be hurt in a transportation-related incident than we are to be a victim of a violent crime,” he said while addressing council earlier this month.
Cutting collisions on Marine Drive is one of the department’s primary goals for 2015.
However, the department isn’t looking for a single extra dollar to reach their goals.
Goerke made a budget request of $13.1 million for 2015, identical to the department’s 2014 budget.
The requested budget includes a 2.5 per cent wage increase for police as well as a two per cent hike for unionized civilian staff.
Despite fielding 14,374 calls for service in 2014, Goerke said calls have been decreasing slightly over the years.
For every 1,000 West Vancouverites there were 44 crimes in the community in 2014 — just a few more than in the District of North Vancouver but far fewer than the 75 per 1,000 in the City of North Vancouver.
Those figures have not been audited.
There were 5.6 incidents of violent crime per 1,000 West Vancouver residents, according to the police database. There were 3.9 violent crimes in the District of North Vancouver and 9.8 in the city per 1,000.
West Van’s violent crime rate has fallen since peaking at an average of 7.1 per 1,000 in 2012 and the district is now far below the B.C. average on the crime severity index, in terms of both violent and non-violent crime.
However, property crime has been ticking upwards since 2011, when the figure was 25.6 per 1,000. In 2014, that rate moved to 30.4, compared to 25.2 in the district and 38.2 in the City of North Vancouver.
Dealing with property crime is a bit of a challenge in West Vancouver, as most serial offenders are from outside the district, noted Goerke.
“We had a bad year for residential burglaries,” Goerke said.
Some of the numbers may not tell the full story, according to Goerke.
While he acknowledged there was “probably not” a reduction in violence against women in West Vancouver, he said that more incidents being reported is not necessarily a bad trend, given how historically under-reported domestic violence has been.
West Vancouver pays $288 per capita for its police service. The City of North Vancouver pays $233 and the district pays $184, according to 2013 figures.
The WVPD has one officer for approximately every 570 residents. Both the City and District of North Vancouver have substantially higher ratios, with 959 district residents to every police officer and 787 city residents to each officer.
“We are not cheaper than the RCMP but I would argue that what we offer is a good value,” Goerke said.
To illustrate his point, Goerke pointed to a recent incident where a marked police car spent two days parked outside the home of a family being extorted. Ordinarily, the family would’ve been told to leave their house or hire security, he said.
West Vancouver police are also responsible for policing the ferry terminal, a mall with regional appeal and the Squamish Nation.
Asked about a 2014 report detailing low morale in the department, Goerke said spirits have generally been raised, but as the new chief, he’s still in the “honeymoon phase.”