Top cop defends response times
Head of Penticton RCMP detachment says officers in city respond to calls faster than national average
Police response times in Penticton are better than the national average and any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate, RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager told local politicians Thursday.
During a presentation to the board of the Regional District of OkanaganSimilkameen, De Jager was asked by Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki what the detachment is doing to improve response times.
Vassilaki was referencing an incident last week in which an intoxicated man entered a downtown business and was kept at bay by city bylaw officers until police arrived about 20 minutes later.
“I want you to assure the community that this isn’t a dangerous place to live,” Vassilaki told De Jager.
De Jager said that during the incident in question, an officer arrived on the scene within three minutes of receiving the call for service from dispatch.
“We call that a dispatch delay,” he explained. “Our dispatch system may sometimes hold the file because sometimes there’s nobody available.”
Even if twice as many front-line officers were available, he continued, that wouldn’t guarantee response times would change.
“Sometimes the members are involved with other files,” said De Jager.
The police industry standard for response times across North America is nine minutes for priority 911 calls, he added.
“The fact is the majority of our response times in the more urban areas are well under industry standards,” said De Jager.
“I realize that might be small comfort to someone who is on the phone waiting for police to arrive, but we are looking at all of that to ensure we are well under that industry standard.”
De Jager repeated his mantra that Penticton and the entire region remain “one of the safest places to be, but that doesn’t mean that crime does not happen and doesn’t mean that we don’t have concerns that we’re trying to address.”
There are fewer than 100 prolific offenders spread across this region who are responsible for 80 to 90 per cent of serious criminal activity, and police continue to target those individuals, said De Jager.
“The notion that downtown Penticton is an unsafe place — and I’ve been very public about that — is wrong,” he said.
Jake Kimberley, a Penticton city councillor and RDOS director, said most of the complaints he fields concern the lack of a visible police presence in the downtown core.
“What if there were cruisers going up and down Main Street on a fairly regular basis?” he asked rhetorically. “It would deter a lot of that activity off that Main Street.”
De Jager responded that unmarked cruisers are often located downtown as members of the Targeted Enforcement Unit are keeping close watch on prolific offenders and there has been a spike in regular patrols over the past several months.
Smaller communities like Keremeos and Cawston, however, might have only one officer on duty at any given time, with backup available 40 or 50 minutes away in Penticton.
In those places, “We look to the community to look after themselves,” said De Jager, who urged the public to call police whenever they are victims or witnesses of crime.