Crime in Iqaluit up “marginally” since beer and wine store opening: RCMP
“The members have noted an increase in calls for service”
Iqaluit’s crime rates have risen “marginally” since a beer and wine store opened in the city last summer, says the city’s new RCMP detachment commander.
“The members have noted an increase in calls for service as a result,” Staff Sgt. Garfield Elliott wrote in a letter provided to city councillors on Tuesday, April 24, during his first visit to a city council meeting.
However, Elliott also cautioned that a detailed analysis of crime statistics still needs to be done.
In September, Elliott’s predecessor said police would need at least six months to monitor the impact of the new availability of beer and wine on crime rates.
Elliott said he’s now asked for a review that will help make some observations by his staff more “quantifiable.”
“I have requested a more in-depth report,” he told councillors.
Since the beer and wine store opened, each month has seen an increase in prisoners held by Iqaluit RCMP compared to one year earlier, according to Elliott’s letter to city council.
The biggest increase occurred in March 2018, which saw 243 prisoners, an increase of 71 prisoners from one year earlier. December saw the smallest increase, with 229 prisoners, up by 13 prisoners.
In the same letter, Elliott wrote that when the beer and wine store was recently closed for a week over the Easter holiday, “we had mornings with no prisoners lodged.”
Police also report seeing an increase in aggression due to drunkenness. That means more police officers are needed to respond to individual calls.
But RCMP officers responding to calls are also observing “fewer people passed out” than they encountered before the beer and wine store opened, said Elliott.
And Elliott suggested that further study could show there are now fewer fights with police spurred by officers seizing bottles of alcohol.
As well, RCMP officers responding to calls appear to be seeing a broader demographic of people, said Elliott. “In the past it was a narrow market,” he said, referring to consumers of bootlegged alcohol.
It’s too early to say whether or not the beer and wine store is cutting into Nunavut’s bootlegging industry, Elliott said. He told Coun. Terry Dobbin that he was too new in his role to give that kind of feedback, but he would look into the issue.
“It’s a beer and wine store. There’s still hard liquor coming into the community,” he said.
Elliott started work as Iqaluit’s RCMP detachment commander on April 4, but he worked at the Iqaluit detachment previously from 2010 to 2014.
Coun. Simon Nattaq expressed concerns that the beer and wine store could cause an increase in drinking in other communities. He said he witnessed this during a recent visit to Arctic Bay.
“I believe since the beer and wine store opened more people are buying alcohol because it is cheaper,” he said in Inuktitut.
Elliott said this could be looked at in the coming report.
“If you’re saying it’s a problem, then I’m sure it’s more than a one-time thing,” he said.
While talking about substance abuse and crime, Coun. Noah Papatsie asked about the RCMP’s plans to prepare for the expected legalization of recreational marijuana this summer.
“We’re looking at getting officers trained for being able to identify and detect drug impaired drivers,” Elliott said, adding that one member from the detachment is travelling for such training next week.
“We realize the clock is ticking,” he said of the pending cannabis legalization.
Elliott said he hopes to meet with city council in the coming month to discuss priorities for policing in the municipality.
A report he provided to council shows offences recorded in Iqaluit for the first three months of 2018, from the beginning of January to the end of March.
Some of those crime stats from the last three months are:
• 223 assaults (all)
• 24 sexual offences
• 31 break and enters
• 5 counts of arson
• 76 offences for uttering threats
• 21 traffic accidents
• 8 firearms offences
• 6 offences of drug trafficking and 7 for drug possession
The report said there are 673 prisoners who have been held at the detachment so far this year. Police responded to 1,837 calls for service during those three months.
The difference in number of prisoners held in Iqaluit was fairly consistent from 2015 through to 2017. Total calls for service in those three years were:
• 5,989 calls in 2015,
• 6,270 calls in 2016, and,
• 7,264 calls in 2017
The RCMP reported to council three times in 2017. Elliott said he plans to have more frequent communication with the city.