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West Shore RCMP aims to start mental health team to tackle rise in violent crime, shoplifting

Langford sees crimes against people jump to 673 in 2022, up from 580
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Crime was down 5.3% overall on the West Shore in 2022. (Black Press Media file photo)

West Shore RCMP is looking to add a mental health unit in the upcoming year to help tackle a rise in more complex incidents including violent crime.

Speaking to the District of Metchosin council on April 24, West Shore RCMP Insp. Todd Preston said establishing a mental health unit is a “huge priority” for the detachment.

“Overall in West Shore violent crime is up, our shoplifting is up 100 per cent actually in Langford… where the majority of the shops are. A lot of that, there’s no doubt in my mind, is associated with mental health and illness.”

Preston said the detachment was planning on establishing a three-officer team, and was hopeful the province would provide funding to partner with nurses who can work as part of that team.

“Just try and get in front of these complaints and get these people with the appropriate resources, we just hope the resources are available when we do.”

The two biggest West Shore communities saw increases in violent crime, with Langford jumping from 580 in 2021 to 673 crimes against persons in 2022, while Colwood went from 184 cases to 249. Highlands (nine incidents in 2021 versus 11 in 2022) and Esquimalt First Nation (three to seven) also saw slight increases. Violent crime incidents declined slightly in View Royal, Metchosin and Songhees First Nation.

Throughout the West Shore, there were 1,138 crimes against persons in 2022, up 15.8 per cent compared to 2021.

Crime was down 5.3 per cent on the West Shore in 2022 overall, according to West Shore RCMP’s 2022 annual report, with case files dropping from 24,043 in 2021 to 22,776 in 2022. This was largely due to fewer COVID-19-related calls, as well as a decline in lost property cases and thefts from motor vehicles, according to the report.

READ MORE: West Shore crime dropped overall in 2022, but saw ‘significant’ rise in violent crime: report

In the report, Preston also highlighted the rise in violent crimes involving youth. In 2021 there were 65 investigations involving youth who were listed as the main perpetrators. In 2022, there were 94 investigations, a 45 per cent increase.

In April, Mike Farnworth, provincial public safety minister, sent a letter to Metchosin Mayor Marie Therese-Little saying it was providing one year of funding for a frontline youth counsellor working throughout Greater Victoria.

Mia Golden’s position with the Crime Reduction & Exploitation Diversion (CRED) program and the Mobile Youth Service Team (MYST), run by the Pacific Centre Family Services Association, was at risk after the federal funding for it ran out on March 31. But now the province has stepped in to fund the position until March 31, 2024, according to Liz Nelson, executive director of the Pacific Centre.

“Which has given us with some breathing room to continue to advocate for ongoing permanent funding, as well as seek additional resources to expand the service,” Nelson wrote in an email. “This is excellent news, but we will need to continue our work to ensure that this service receives adequate ongoing funding beyond 2024.”

READ MORE: Greater Victoria on verge of losing frontline counsellor as youth exploitation cases spike


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bailey.moreton@goldstreamgazette.com

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