A rise in property crime and illegal drug activity has left many Sooke residents concerned, but is it really any more worrying than other municipalities on the Island?
At this point, not particularly. However, the two crimes are related, said Sooke RCMP Staff Sgt. Jeff McArthur.
Property crime – commercial and domestic break and enters and theft from vehicles – is trending up due to the added factor of substance abuse.
“Crystal meth contributes to it, though most of the violence is spawned by alcohol use,” McArthur said.
“There is no one cause, but the prevalence of street drugs also adds to it, not necessarily the physiological effects of the drug itself, but the violence that comes along with the [drug dealing] trade.”
McArthur said there’s no one place the drugs come from, as there are lots of hands in the drug dealing business, varying more or less on the type of drug in question.
He added that with drugs continuing to enter B.C.’s port towns – such as cocaine from overseas via mostly Victoria and Vancouver – the flow of drugs through Langford and consequently into Sooke and beyond remains a concern.
“That’s what we’re looking to beat down right now with our prolific community management program for crime reduction,” McArthur said, adding that crack-cocaine, MDMA, methamphetamine and heroin are the detachment’s top concerns.
“We have a significant amount of meth and crack-cocaine users here,” he said. “Those are the drugs that are doing most of the damage to the community.”
One of the biggest drug busts in Sooke by the local RCMP in recent memory was last May, where five individuals – one of them a minor – were arrested in a drug dealing investigation which also led to the seizure of a substantial quantity of controlled drugs such as crack-cocaine, meth, GHB and psiocybin mushrooms.
Among the items seized were drug trafficking paraphernalia, stolen property, a non-firing replica handgun, machetes and ammunition.
The bust rattled residents for weeks, as the location of the operation was within 100 metres of Sooke Elementary School.
Since then, another drug dealer was caught, albeit on a smaller scale, said McArthur, who added the actual amount of drugs entering an area can vary day to day and week to week, depending on whoever decides to set up a base of operations here.
“There’s groups, generally small groups that are trafficking, but the drug situation changes every day,” he said.
“A group will start up and take over, last a few days or a couple of weeks and then it’s totally different people. Some of them go to jail, others clean up, but it’s a lot of work to keep up on it.”
Traffickers in general are more of a threat to police due to their general desire to remain armed at all times.
“We know that these types of traffickers have access to firearms and need to have firearms, so we’re always really cautious when we deal with them,” McArthur said.
So is Sooke an attractive area for criminal activity? McArthur says no, not really.
“There isn’t anything unique about Sooke that would attract a drug trafficker, other than market share. In a “legal” sense, they’re running a business, so if there’s market share to be had here and they can operate, they will,” he said.
“If the dealers go to jail or the price is way up, then it’s not as lucrative. “
No 24-hour coverage, but police always there
Sooke RCMP don’t work on a 24-hour clock.
And while it causes angst in some corners, the local detachment can manage as-is, says Staff Sgt. Jeff McArthur.
“We don’t have 24-hour policing in Sooke, so that leaves commercial businesses a little vulnerable,” he said.
“That said, we’re not just sitting back and letting that happen, we’re trying to stagger shifts and if we see a problem, we’ll cover people. That means you’ll see a police car no matter what time, but still that would be something we’d like to patch up and not have that window for anybody.”
Several months ago, District of Sooke council asked how much it would take to go to 24-hour policing, to which the answer was a minimum of three officers, preferably four.
“We’d like to have more people, sure, but it’s my job to do the best in the community with the resources that we have,” McArthur said, adding that if it reaches a point where more hands on deck are needed, steps can be taken towards that.
“My job is to make sure that if the lack of coverage becomes a concern for the community, we’re putting the same pressure or more than other agencies around so that we’re not getting more than our share of criminal activity.”