Calls to Sidney/North Saanich RCMP involving mental health rose during the second quarter of 2020, the public heard earlier this month.
According to the report covering the period from April to June 2020 — the height of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic — calls involving mental health rose 29 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.
Staff Sgt. Wayne Conley categorized this among some of the “sharp increases” the department recorded during the height of the pandemic – against the backdrop of an overall drop in calls.
Compared to the second quarter of 2019, local police responded to 11 per cent more calls from April to June, with many categories recording declines.
“While we are still [amidst] the COVID-19 crisis, data to date suggests that there has no significant change in crime trends,” reads the section of the report dealing specifically with the coronavirus pandemic. “There has, however, been a 40 per cent increase [year-over-year] in calls where mental health is a factor.”
The spike in calls involving mental health appears pronounced during the months of the April and May.
Coun. Barbara Fallot said Sidney’s resident survey also identified mental health as a “predominated feature” among the public, adding Conley’s report corroborates that finding from a policing perspective.
Conley also noted that cause-disturbance file went up 186 per cent during the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same period 2019 for an year-over-year increase of 164 per cent. This spike led to an 86 per cent in other criminal code offences during the second quarter of 2020 compared to 2019 with a year-over-year increase of 75 per cent.
Within this context, the report points to the number of calls for service involving individuals considered homeless or of no fixed address. Sidney/North Saanich RCMP responded to 170 calls for service between March 24 and May 31 involving 73 different individuals with 59 individuals having had prior police contacts elsewhere.
“Of interest, there was a notable spike in these contacts when transit was free in Greater Victoria,” it reads.
Sidney officials have since noted that homeless levels have returned to traditional levels.
Areas with notable declines include property crimes (down 42 per cent), which Conley describes as a “significant.” Overall, Conley described the numbers as “very erratic” which was not very surprising.
While COVID-19 has challenged the detachment, it has managed “reasonably” well, he added.
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