Surrey RCMP reported less crime but an uptick in mental health issues among residents, as it took on a new role in public health monitoring during the pandemic in 2020, according to its annual Report to the Community.
Compared with 2019, property crime reports were down 16%, while violent crimes were down 9%, overall.
The city saw a steep decline in thefts from autos, from 6,985 to 5,652. Minor thefts declined from 3,915 to 2,992. As well, shoplifting reports went from 3,488 to 2,478. Assaults, mischief and sexual offences saw declines of 5-10%, although one outlier was an uptick in robberies, from 388 to 430.
Also, homicides declined from 21 to 12, although attempted murders remained the same at 16 in each of the past two years.
Gang activity indicators were also down, such as “shots fired” calls from 45 to 34 and just 724 seized firearms, compared with 773 in 2019. Surrey RCMP forwarded 210 charges of drug trafficking last year.
Meanwhile, the force, which has experienced a hiring freeze by the current city council for three straight years, saw an uptick in suicide calls (1,737, up from 1,593 in 2019) and mental health calls (8,288, up from 7,778 in 2019). Mounties used the Car 67 program 848 times in 2020. Car 67 pairs a police officer with a Fraser Health nurse to respond to police calls that involve significant mental health issues, the report states.
While commuting declined during the pandemic, so too did distracted driving violations – from 2,412 to 1,680. However, Surrey Mounties caught more people driving impaired in 2020, with 1,545 immediate roadside prohibitions (up from 1,287 in 2019).
Surrey RCMP took on a new role during the pandemic, as public health order enforcer. The detachment conducted 90,366 proactive compliance checks and responded to 1,782 COVID-19 calls for service. Officers issued 53 COVID-19 violation tickets.
“The COVID-19 Compliance and Enforcement Team partnered police officers with City of Surrey Bylaws to ensure businesses, faith-based organizations and residents understood and followed public health orders,” states the report.
Mounties adapted in some ways for the pandemic, with contactless fingerprinting, video bail hearings, online Block Watch training and increased patrols around shuttered small businesses.
The detachment saw an uptick in public complaints to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, from 126 in 2019 to 151 in 2020.
The average response time for “priority 1 calls” was seven minutes and one second, down from seven minutes and 23 seconds in 2019.
Surrey RCMP has 843 police officers, 58 of whom are with integrated units for the Lower Mainland. The detachment also has 302 municipal support staff, 93 community volunteers and 37 auxiliary volunteers. The force comprises 32% visible minorities and 32% women.
Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards, the Surrey RCMP Officer in Charge (chief) committed to cooperating on the transition.
“We also continue to adapt as the City of Surrey works to transition their policing from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service. The transition of police services is a complex process but my team is committed to working collaboratively with the Surrey Police Service to ensure that public safety is not compromised at any point in the process. [Surrey Police Chief Norm Lipinski] and I have a strong relationship that will ensure, as stated, that the safety of our police officers and that of the community is the primary consideration when moving forward,” Edwards said.