There have been increases in arson, assaults, break-and-enters and drug offences across the Cowichan Valley since the new year, and it’s likely connected to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, according to the RCMP.
In the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment’s quarterly report covering January through March of this year that was presented to Duncan’s council on May 4, Insp. Chris Bear said when the pandemic first struck the community in March, the RCMP’s operating procedures were changed overnight.
He said those include the closing of the RCMP’s front counter to the public, limiting contact between police and public, postponing trials and the release of prisoners.
“In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many accused persons have been released from jails on conditions,” Bear said.
“This has created a substantial increase in property crimes.”
Bear also said another alarming trend that has arisen since January is that a number of fires have been deliberately set in the greater Duncan area, including fires that appear to have been started by people trying to stay warm, with many being set in dumpsters in the city.
“We do have several persons of interest and are investigating further into these fires,” Bear said. “We are reminding the public to keep an eye out for fires and try not to leave items laying around that are available to burn.”
But, overall, Bear said there has been a four per cent decrease in calls for service at the detachment from the same time period last year.
He said 5,136 calls for service were received across the region from January through March, compared to 5,350 last year.
“Some improvements over last year were noted,” Bear said.
“For the City of Duncan, shoplifting, break-and-entering into residences, mischief and disturbance calls were down.”
Bear said the charges laid in the quarter specifically in the Duncan area include 71 drug possessions, 52 for causing disturbances, 40 break-and-enters, 30 assaults, 11 DUIs, 10 for drug trafficking and five for sex offences.
He said that of all the calls for service received by the detachment in the quarter, approximately 49 per cent came from North Cowichan, 23 per cent were from Duncan, 11 per cent were from the Cowichan Tribes and Indigenous lands, nine per cent came from the provincial areas and eight per cent originated from people coming to the RCMP office directly.