Although the talk in the coffeeshops may, focus on the “old-Sooke vs. new-Sooke” phenomenon and the impact of growth on the community, the changing face of Sooke has little impact on the way RCMP Staff Sgt. Jeff McArthur approaches his job.
“We really just have to focus and do our job,” said McArthur.
“We really don’t focus on that sort of discussion at all. There are more important issues.”
Those issues include the improvement of dialogue with the First Nations community and ways to improve service.
“It’s something we started focussing on in 2018 and we intend to continue to improve in that area.”
Another area of concern that McArthur said is a focus of his force is the management of prolific offenders.
“Like any community, there are a small number of residents that create a disproportionate number of calls. We’ll be working with those people … reaching out to get them into contact with someone who can help them with their issues.”
That approach, he said, has had some success and he hopes those successes will continue in 2019.
“If it doesn’t work, we then have to work with the courts to try to get them an extended sentence. It’s about keeping the community safe.”
With all the attention to the question of homelessness, McArthur was quick to point out that the homeless in Sooke are not the drivers of crime in the community. He doesn’t expect that to change in 2019.
“The homeless in Sooke don’t increase crime. They are homeless for any number of reasons. We have vets, people in transition, some with mental challenges but they aren’t generally criminals,” said McArthur.
On the issue of the legalization of marijuana, McArthur doesn’t anticipate that his force will see much change in 2019.
“Sooke council really did the right thing in letting the shops operate in the past. Those operators were actually very responsible and, now, with legalization, there really is very little change,” said McArthur.
“We will be spending our time on the traffickers of hard drugs. When people are dying of opiates and other hard drugs, that’s where we will put our resources.”
One challenge that McArthur anticipates in the coming year involves manpower.
“The population has been growing locally and the fact is that we’re just not keeping up with those increases. We have increased tourism as well, and all of that means we need more officers.”
But even if more officers can be secured, McArthur noted that the building housing the RCMP is already at capacity.
“We’re growing out of our building, and the face is we’ll be looking to the district, not only to increase manpower but to address our facilities here as well.”