Langley RCMP work on being strategic

Special units target prolific offenders, and analyze crime data to set operational plans to fight crime.

Supt. Derek Cooke is the officer in charge of the Langley RCMP detachment.

Supt. Derek Cooke is the officer in charge of the Langley RCMP detachment.

Langley RCMP is taking a strategic approach to crime issues in the community, Supt. Derek Cooke told Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce last Tuesday.

Cooke has headed the Langley detachment for the past four years, and said much of his tenure has been focused on dealing with crime reduction and prolific offenders. Cooke said crime is actually on the decline, despite some perceptions that it is on the rise. Property crime is down 7.42 per cent in 2013 from 2012, and violent crime is down almost 11 per cent.

He said reductions in crime are partially due to changing demographics, with the population aging. He said police are also getting more strategic in their approach.

He outlined how the detachment’s prolific offender program works. It is something Langley RCMP have been working on since 2010.

Cooke said that a small number of offenders are responsible for a large number of crimes in Langley. The detachment’s crime analysts look at the individuals  and crimes, and every quarter, the top 20 to 25 are targeted on a list. Members of the prolific offender team engage with them and offer to assist them if they want to get away from their lifestyle. They also warn them that they will be closely watched and will receive tickets and be arrested for very minor incidents that police would not normally bother with — such as riding a bicycle on a sidewalk, for example.

Police also compile a sentencing package on these individuals and it is available to all police officers in B.C., in case the offenders decide to leave Langley.

Another initiative of Langley RCMP is Comp Stat, which makes use of computer statistics and regular monthly meetings to target patterns in crime, possible suspects and an action plan. The plan is reviewed at the next meeting to see how effective it is.

The work also involves going over crime maps and hot spots. A focus in recent months has been the spate of thefts from community mailboxes.

At any given time, there are probably 10 Langley RCMP officers out in the community, he said. The general duty staff is made up 80 of Langley RCMP’s 184 members, divided into four watches of 20 members each. At any one time, there are five off due to various leaves, five supervisors and 10 constables out on the road.

Thus police resources are stretched thin, he said. There are 40,000 calls for service each year.

Cooke said police officers in B.C. tend to be busier than in other parts of the country, with a caseload 43 per cent higher than the national average in 2012. In 2004, that figure was 87 per cent.

Despite that, the cost to taxpayers has remained relatively static. As a percentage of overall municipal expenditures, policing costs have not gone up, he said.

He said policing is constantly changing, with police dealing with far more social issues than they used to. They also do far more paperwork in court cases, with the figure going up by 58 per cent since 1983. A great deal of this is due to changes in procedures, which have resulted from court rulings on the Charter of Rights.

Other factors that have changed policing in Langley are the loss of a courthouse here, the growing problem of wire theft, community mailboxes (“a corporate service delivery decision created a new crime category for us,” he said) and the proliferation of cell phones.

Cooke said other factors that have changed policing are the proliferation of crack cocaine and the length of waits at Langley Memorial Hospital. Officers who take a suspect or inmates there must wait with them, and the waits are far longer than they used to be.

Gangs are also a major issue for police, he said. The Gang Task Force has identified 180 criminal gangs in B.C.