Fort Smith’s RCMP detachment is reporting a significant year-on-year drop in prisoner count. So far, nearly 100 fewer people in the community have been jailed compared to 2019 figures.
The statistics, for the year to the end of October, were presented to Fort Smith town councillors at a meeting on November 17.
Detachment commander Sgt Geoffrey Peters told councillors he initially attributed the reduction to Covid-19 measures designed to keep fewer people in cells.
But, he said, RCMP logs suggest the kinds of call that result in imprisonment in police cells have also dropped.
Up to the end of October, Fort Smith’s detachment had recorded 265 calls related to disturbances and mischief. Across 2019 as a whole, there were 452 such calls.
Peters said that drop represented “the only real difference” in statistics between the two years, but police aren’t sure why the numbers are down.
Generally, Peters said, disturbances are incidents outside a residence and mischief relates to incidents inside. Those two types of call usually involve intoxication.
He told councillors a drop in those calls – “less alcohol-fuelled, nuisance-type calls” – would lead to a drop in prisoner count.
To date, this year’s Fort Smith prisoner count is 137 compared to last year’s total of 238.
“That’s good news,” Peters told councillors.
RCMP declined to Cabin Radio’s request for an interview with the sergeant to further examine why these types of calls may have decreased.
Instead, in a written statement, Yellowknife-based spokesperson Marie York-Condon said police did not have enough information to identify trends.
“Other mitigating factors may be contributing to less calls for service of this type, such as restrictions related to Covid-19,” York-Condon wrote.
“The reduction in prisoner count may be in part attributed to the efforts by Fort Smith RCMP to relocate a vulnerable individual when there is no criminal offence.
“This process includes efforts to locate a responsible adult who would care for the individual and potentially prevent a criminal activity that would result in arrest.”