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Year-end stats shed light on Dawson Creek crime increase

A battle for the local drug trade, a rash of break-and-enters and a general rise in mischief made 2015 a busy year for RCMP in Dawson Creek. Mounties responded to an average 809 calls per month last year, compared to just 675 a month in 2013.
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Dawson Creek RCMP Staff Sgt. Marcel Guilbault stands over nearly 30 stolen weapons police seized in February and May. Investigators are still trying to recover more than a dozen weapons stolen from homes in 2015.

A battle for the local drug trade, a rash of break-and-enters and a general rise in mischief made 2015 a busy year for RCMP in Dawson Creek.

Mounties responded to an average 809 calls per month last year, compared to just 675 a month in 2013. The detachment handled a total of 8,109 calls that year, while in 2015, Dawson Creek RCMP fielded 9,708 calls.

The peak came in May, when local members dealt with 957 files.

Not only were there more calls overall, "but the severity of some files has also increased as well," Staff Sgt. Marcel Guilbault wrote in a report to city council.

Weapons thefts, break-and-enters and drug-related violence contributed to some of that. Guilbault said investigators are working to recover more than a dozen firearms stolen from homes in Dawson Creek last year.

At the same time, the detachment is working to fill gaps left by internal promotions and the impending departures of senior members. They expect to lose another two investigators April 1, and are trying to fill the roles with experienced members from other detachments.

The detachment is seeking to hire additional members to add to its full complement of 25, but has yet to win approval from senior governments.

The Peace Region has seen an uptick in crime, which some attribute with the downturn in the oilpatch.

Grande Prairie has emerged as Canada's violent crime capital. That city is seeking to expand its police force, adding eight officers a year for seven years. Grande Prairie added 13,000 residents between 2011 and 2015, while Dawson Creek's population has stayed largely flat.

There was a silver lining in Dawson Creek: calls for service dropped significantly in December, to 621.

Mayor Dale Bumstead said he hoped the trend persists, saying he believed the economic slump was actually contributing to a decrease in crime in the city.

"Probably we're seeing the reduction in crime as a correlation to the reduction in economic activity," Bumstead said Monday.

The influx of pipeline workers and new worker camps could tip that balance, he added.

reporter@dcdn.ca