Oceanside RCMP says engaging youth one of local force’s top priorities

Staff Sgt. Brian Hunter spoke to the board of director of the Regional District of Nanaimo this week

Youth, traffic and crime reduction are the Oceanside RCMP’s top priorities this year, according to chief of police Brian Hunter.

Addressing the Regional Distict of Nanaimo’s board of directors, Hunter said the priorities are a result of statistics and meetings with elected officials and community groups.

“This doesn’t mean we won’t police other crimes that occur,” Hunter told the board at its committee-of-the-whole meeting. “It means we’ll put an extra emphasis on these issues and when we do that, some of the other issues will subside.”

Hunter said there are 120 rural districts in the province policed by the RCMP. Of those, the RDN is the second largest in size (next to the Comox Valley) and the second lowest in crime (next to Quadra Island).

“That’s pretty good stuff,” said Hunter, adding rural Parksville Qualicum Beach — including Nanoose Bay, French Creek, Deep Bay/Bowser and Errington/Coombs — has a crime rate of 25.

Crime rate is the number of reported crimes per 1,000 population in a given year.

He said the Mounties’ first priority is working on “positive interaction” with youth by crafting relationships at the local elementary and high schools through programs like D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and engaging in recreational activities with youth.

“It’s amazing when you start playing floor hockey with them (youth) they realize ‘these guys are just human beings like us,'” said Hunter, who also said youth are aware of much of the crime that takes place here, especially in terms of incidents like graffiti.

“If we have relationships with youth maybe they’ll pare that down,” he said. “I know I’m wearing rose coloured glasses but the hope is that as youth get into adulthood they have a positive idea about police.”

Secondly, Hunter said traffic is predominately an issue in terms of speeding and distracted driving — noting the detachment is tackling those issues through education and enforcement. And the police’s third priority is crime reduction with a focus on property crime and drugs.

“The two are interrelated,” said Hunter. “You get somebody with a drug addiction of hundreds of dollars a day, they don’t have money and they are going to start stealing things.”

He said police are focusing on identifying “chronic offenders” described as “that very, very small portion of the population who commit the majority of the crime.”

From 2008 to 2012 Hunter said crime has been reduced by 50 per cent in Parksville Qualicum Beach.

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