Sooke RCMP

Sooke RCMP commander sees merit in private security patrols

'I’m open-minded to anything that’s going to improve things in the community,' says Staff Sgt. Jeff McArthur

As Sooke continues to see a slight increase in some criminal activity over the first three months of the year, the local RCMP detachment commander says he’s “open-minded” to the idea of private security doing night patrols.

Between January and March, Sooke saw increases in violent crime, property crime, and harassment. Property crime is up more than four per cent due to increases in auto theft, theft from vehicles and break-and-enter.

“I’m opened-minded to [working with private security],” Staff Sgt. Jeff McArthur told council last week. “I’m open-minded to anything that’s going to improve things in the community. I would certainly entertain working with Dave Babbage (owner of Shadow West Security).”

In a proposal to Sooke council earlier this year, Shadow West Security suggested providing night-time patrols between two and four hours on residential streets, seven days a week. A staff report on the proposal will go before council Monday (June 27).

But McArthur said just because he believes a private security option is worth pursuing, he cautioned the RCMP might not take the same attitude due to liability.

“I know our organization would have some reservations as to the relationship and would want that relationship spelled out,” he said.

The situation is complicated with the RCMP’s decision to reduce the auxiliary police role throughout Canada until a yearlong review of the program is complete.

In Sooke’s case that has put the auxiliary crime prevention officer’s position in limbo. “He must be accompanied by a regular officer and we don’t have the resources for that in Sooke,” McArthur said.

The local detachment is also down by two members.

But while some crime has increased others have decreased including assaults, sex offences, uttering threats, break-and-enter (business), mischief and property and some categories of theft.

McArthur pointed out one must be careful in deciphering crime statistics because one or two incidents in a small community can skew the numbers. For example, weapons offences jumped by 200 per cent in the first three months of the year compared to the same period last year. The numbers? One incident was recorded in 2015 and three documented this year.

Sooke Mounties have made it a priority to reduce commercial theft and lower property crime.

McArthur said the replacement of the two officers and another Mountie hired this fall should help.

“The best option is probably several more police officers, but I’ve beat that one to death,” McArthur told council with a chuckle.