Assaults were up in most areas in the Cowichan Valley from July to September this year, but most significantly in the south Duncan area, according to Insp. Chris Bear, head of the 63-member North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment.
In his third-quarter report to North Cowichan council, Bear said the increase in assaults, which were up by 25 per cent over the same period last year to 218 incidents, during the summer months occurred primarily near the Duncan Mall/Chances Casino area, and on the shores of the Cowichan River.
“There was a noticeable increase of people congregating along the Cowichan River given the summer weather,” Bear said in his report.
“Police patrols noted public intoxication, breach-of-peace and disturbances which appear to be a contributing factor to assaults.”
Bear also noted that sex offences in the region were also significantly up this quarter by 119 per cent compared to last year, from 21 to 46 incidents, but down a bit when compared to the two previous quarters this year.
“For [sex offence] files with identified victims in this quarter, 42 per cent of sex assaults were on youth victims,” he said.
“There were no sex assaults [on strangers] reported.”
Bear said that overall, there was a 3.1 per cent increase in calls for service at the detachment from July through September, which saw calls increase from 5,276 in the same period last year to 5,440 this year during the summer months.
In a separate quarterly summary for the summer months for the downtown Duncan corridor and surrounding area, Bear said the RCMP were called to that area eight per cent more in the third quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.
He said violent crime in the downtown corridor increased 24 per cent over the same months last year, with 28 assaults and six sex offences reported in that area.
Bear said property crimes also increased by 13 per cent, with shoplifting being the major cause of the increase, with 97 incidents reported.
“Shoplifting more than doubled this quarter and was the single largest increase for the quarter,” he said.
“At the end of [June, 2022] Real Canadian Superstore staff began reporting a recent corporate policy change which limited the role of the loss prevention officer, directing them to no longer take any action in preventing shoplifting, but to simply record and report shoplifting to police.”
Bear said 65 per cent of all shopliftings in the downtown corridor and area occur at Real Canadian Superstore, where shoplifting increased 186 per cent with 80 incidents in the quarter.
“Our second and third most frequently shoplifted locations are Walmart and Canadian Tire, which experienced a combined 84 per cent increase in shoplifting,” he said.
“It’s possible that this change in corporate policy is negatively impacting shoplifting disproportionately at Superstore compared to other commercial locations, and was contributing significantly to shoplifting numbers overall for our area.”
But Loblaw Public Relations, which speaks for the Valley’s Real Canadian Superstore, said the store has made no such changes to its apprehension policy or direction on shoplifting.