Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit June 15, 2017 - 7:44 am

Calls are up: Nunavut’s capital to get three more police officers

Iqaluit city councillors asking for beach area foot patrol this summer

Break and enters could spike with the change in season St.-Sgt. Matco Sirotic says June 13 during a police report to Iqaluit City Council. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
Break and enters could spike with the change in season St.-Sgt. Matco Sirotic says June 13 during a police report to Iqaluit City Council. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

The city wants to see more of the RCMP, literally—with walking patrols around the beach in summer and more regular attendance at Iqaluit city council meetings. 

With three new staff members coming soon, increased police presence should be easier, St.-Sgt. Matco Sirotic told councillors during a June 13 police report to councillors—the first such report since February.

“Everywhere else in the country positions are going down. We are seeing more resources thrown at us that way,” he said.

But the increase is more related to crime stats than it is to community policing programs.

In a city and territory that has what Sirotic called a “high crime severity index,” he said the majority of detachment time is spent responding to calls for issues such as assault and domestic violence.

And, while call volume is down from previous years, that still remains quite high.

It’s not uncommon for the Iqaluit detachment to have two calls sitting in the queue while they are responding to a third, “which sounds like a big city setting,” Sirotic said. 

According to the RCMP report, drug-related offences are going down, as are impaired driving, firearms offences and arson.

Mischief and disturbing of the peace are the most frequent calls RCMP receive, he said. And, calls for assault remain high—as does the number of prisoners held in Iqaluit RCMP cells, compared with the size of the city. 

Annual stats for offences in Iqaluit to date show:

• 982 prisoners held;

• 830 mischief;

• 665 disturbing the peace;

• 263 assaults (all);

• 42 break and enters (there were 71 this time last year, in 2016);

• 34 traffic accidents;

• 32 impaired vehicle operators; and,

• eight firearm offences.

Councillors still wondered if police here have enough support, even with the promise of three new officers on the way.

“Given the sheer volume of calls, we’re pushing 12,000, are you adequately staffed?” asked Coun. Kyle Sheppard. “If we were to push the GN to get more staff, would it make a difference?”

Likely not, Sirotic said, because staffing is done federally and is based on statistics. He added that the Iqaluit detachment actually requested more than three new staff.

He also told councillors the detachment would look into starting up a walking patrol for the summer months, including around the elders’ centre.

“Sometimes it’s not just to be safe, but it’s also to feel safe,” Sirotic said.

So to keep residents feeling safe, the RCMP would like Iqalungmiut to make sure their doors are locked as break and enters become more frequent in spring and summer. 

“This is the time of the year that it tends to pick up,” Sirotic said, adding there was a spike in break and enters last spring around this time.

Following recent firearm incidents in Arviat, Cambridge Bay, and Sanikiluaq, Coun. Terry Dobbin asked what is being done to promote use of trigger locks.

“We have an inordinate amount of trigger locks,” which are made available throughout the territory, said Sirotic. He said the long-running trigger lock program is aimed at firearm safety education but that the locks are pointless if people don’t use them. 

A recent tragedy in Akulivik also spurred conversation at the meeting about mental health support.

Coun. Joanasie Akumalik said he had heard that people who received referrals for mental health support from the Iqaluit RCMP were not getting call-backs.

“Something is wrong with the communication with the RCMP and mental health,” he said. “I would strongly suggest the detachment start prioritizing referrals.”

Sirotic said while limited resources required the officers to focus on their role as first responders, mental health support was as much a priority for the RCMP as high-risk cases such as assault or abuse. 

As for request from councillors for more community engagement, Sirotic said the detachment also opens its doors for school classes or community groups wanting to learn more about work done by the RCMP.

“My door is always open for that,” he said.

The detachment will also be co-hosting a June 21 barbecue at the elders’ centre for National Aboriginal Day.

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(9) Comments:

#1. Posted by Paul Murphy on June 15, 2017

And Sir thank you for your service and that of all first responders everywhere.

#2. Posted by Not more... time for city police instead on June 15, 2017

Shouldn’t the Councillors be asking, isn’t it about time we have our own city police instead of saying city needs more RCMP?

Should the Councillors tell the RCMP let our by-laws with upgraded police training look after the 830+ mischief calls and 665+ disturbing the peace calls.  As those calls are probably almost all alcohol related.  With future up coming city alcohol plans, it would be good to start now with training and jail in place.

This would probably cut the additional 3 officers and may further cut one or two more, reducing Nunavut’s overall RCMP policing expense.

Time for city, capital to step up and take responsibility for protection and safety.

#3. Posted by jokes on June 15, 2017

#2 Bahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!
Our own police force. In Iqaluit. Good one.

#4. Posted by Policing on June 15, 2017

#2, I encourage you to do a little more research into having “our own police force” and get back to us with your findings. I encourage you to do this before providing what would be required for a new force, and how things are going in other regions with their own police forces. Although RCMP isn’t the perfect system, they are expensive (although currently rank in the bottom quarter of all police forces across Canada), I could ensure you they deliver some of the best service even though a lot of people complain about them.

Could some folks from Northern Quebec tell us how the Kativik Police force is doing with their service delivery?

#5. Posted by Reality Check on June 15, 2017

@#2. Time to sober up.  Never heard of such foolishness as your comments.  The RCMP do an exceptional job in this community.  The crime rate, crime severity and offence types far exceed what is seen in the south.  Look at the headlines recently around the Territory. We don’t pay these officers near enough for their work.  Don’t waste space on this post.

#6. Posted by Budget on June 15, 2017

The City is in a deficit position, plus they could never ever afford to have their own Police Force.

#7. Posted by thank you on June 16, 2017

Thank you #1,  #4 and #5

#8. Posted by Karl Popper on June 17, 2017

#4 As you are advocating for a local police force it is incumbent on you, not anyone else, to provide a well reasoned argument as to why this is a favourable option. Telling others to go find out for themselves is a little lazy on your part, wouldn’t you agree?

#9. Posted by Infrastructure on June 18, 2017

#6 we can go for a dip in the pool and soak in the hot tub and think about how we can pay for that.

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