Inspector Eric Rochette is the new officer in charge of the Port Alberni RCMP. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Domestic violence on the rise in Port Alberni during COVID-19 pandemic

Property crime is down ‘significantly’ for the quarter

Reports of domestic violence have gone up “drastically” in the City of Port Alberni since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, according to the city’s officer in charge.

Port Alberni RCMP Insp. Eric Rochette presented the city’s second quarter policing statistics during a meeting of city council on Monday, July 27. These statistics cover the months of April to June.

One of Rochette’s biggest concerns was the increase in domestic violence reports. This year, there were 28 calls related to domestic violence from April to June, compared to only 14 calls in the same quarter last year.

“That’s a 100 percent increase,” said Rochette. “If you compare that number to the last four years, it’s a fairly high number.”

He said the increase could be explained in different ways. A change in crime reporting across Canada took effect last year, which has led to an increase in the number of files reported to Statistics Canada. However, Rochette also believes the COVID-19 pandemic and social isolation may have contributed to the increase in domestic violence.

“What happened with COVID has been an issue for sure,” Rochette added. “We’re working hard with our stakeholders, as well as the domestic violence officer at the detachment, to pinpoint the reason calls have gone up so drastically.”

Mayor Sharie Minions said on Monday that she was “concerned” by the number of domestic violence calls.

“So many people being kind of isolated in their homes, without the resources that they normally have,” Minions said. “I’m happy to hear the RCMP is honed in on this and really understands the significance of it.”

Outside of domestic violence calls, Rochette said that criminal offences are down by 16 percent compared to the same quarter last year. Most property crime has gone down “significantly,” said Rochette, with break and enters down by 66 percent. Meanwhile, mischief to property, or vandalism, is up by 13 percent.

The Port Alberni RCMP announced on Monday that the detachment is now open to the public again. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only three people will be allowed in the lobby at a time.

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