The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) is planning to launch a pilot project this fall to help keep prolific offenders from ending up in and out of jail.
Chief Mike Serr said the APD is looking at an “integrated court model” – often referred to as a community court or drug court – to address the issues behind the criminal behaviour of habitual offenders.
Serr said the partners involved in the project – including police, Crown counsel, the City of Abbotsford, and community corrections – will identify nine people who they think would benefit.
The idea is to set them up with services, such as drug treatment or housing, “and see if we can find better pathways,” Serr said.
“We are frustrated when we do arrest somebody who’s committed multiple property-crime offences, and they’re back on the street, and it’s just that repeating cycle,” Serr said.
He said property crime continues to be a challenge for the APD, with almost 2,300 crimes such as break-ins, theft of vehicles, and theft from vehicles reported from Jan. 1 to April 30 of this year.
Although that rate is down 12.3 per cent from the same period in 2018, Serr said the APD is still working diligently to drop that number further.
He referred to most of these offences as “survival crimes” that are committed, for example, to support a drug addiction.
Serr said that, for such individuals, supporting a drug habit of $100 a day requires them to steal $1,000 worth of items because they only get 10 cents on the dollar for fenced property.
But he said continuing to arrest, jail and release such a person does not address their underlying issue – their drug addiction – and results in them being an ongoing nuisance to the community.
Serr said it is hoped that the new courthouse currently under construction on Trethewey Street will have a full-time integrated court.
Meanwhile, the APD is drawing attention to the issue of prolific offenders (those with 10 to 29 convictions) and super-prolific offenders (30 or more convictions).
“We have a relatively small group of people who commit a disproportionate amount of crime,” Serr said.
He said the theft of items in vehicles is the “biggest driver” of property crime. Sgt. Judy Bird said the APD doesn’t want to blame citizens for the work of thieves, but she said there are preventive steps that can be taken.
“Leaving your laptop in your car is something that is preventable. Leaving $2,000 in the door of your car is preventable,” she said.
Bird said the APD tends to see property-crime numbers drop when they post their “9 pm routine” on social media: a reminder for people to take valuables out of their vehicles, lock their vehicles, close their garage door, lock all their house doors, ensure all windows are shut and turn on an exterior light.
She encourages residents to report crimes in their neighbourhoods, whether they do it online (abbypd.ca), text 22973 (abbypd) or call 604-859-5225. That information is then added to the APD’s crime-mapping system, which is posted on its website.
Bird said this information also enables police to alert the public, allocate resources to these “hot spots” and check up on prolific offenders in the area.
“The only way we know how crime is happening or where it’s happening or what is happening is if people call us,” she said.