500 missing persons cases eat up resources

The number of missing persons cases in Duncan is significantly higher than in other areas according to North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment commander Insp. Ray Carfantan. The acknowledgement was part of Carfantan’s quarterly report to North Cowichan council Wednesday afternoon. "This year [2013] there were over 500 reports of missing persons. While all of these persons have been located and returned home without incident, this is a very high risk area and it can go sideways very quickly," he said. "There are often a smaller number of people responsible for a larger number of reports of missing persons as they are unhappy with their current environment."

The investigations are time consuming, the Inspector noted, as they must be tackled initially as homicides in order to gather the appropriate evidence.

"They draw heavily on our resources," he admitted.

But he wouldn’t do it any other way. Noting the Highway of Tears and the missing women related to the Robert Pickton, case, he said gathering evidence early is paramount.

"Those things were scrutinized because the police didn’t do enough at the front end," he said. "We treat these with a tremendous amount of intensity." But, a new initiative to remain in contact with the most frequently reported missing persons to increase the level of communication with them is on the horizon, Carfantan said.

"We are talking to them on a regular basis. We’re talking to them anyway but we’re just trying to be a little more proactive," he said.

Missing persons statistics aside, Carfantan went on to note the detachment’s prolific offender management program continues to be an effective crime reduction management strategy, which council is always pleased to hear.

Council also learned that residential break-and-enters are down.

"I have noted for the period for 2013 a decrease substantially in residential break-ins however I have seen an increase in commercial break-ins," Carfantan said.

He said more resources – both uniformed officers and community programs like Citizens on Patrol – will be keeping a more consistent eye on those areas seemingly being targeted most.

Traffic safety is another big priority, especially given this month is distracted driving awareness month.

Drivers without Bluetooth devices need be on high alert in February as police are looking for them this month, Carfantan said.

Bike patrols, foot patrols and the Bar Watch program continue to be an asset to the police force and will continue, especially in the summer months. He said he’s been happy to walk through the cores of Chemainus and Duncan and touch base with community members.

"People are very appreciative of the opportunity to talk or sometimes just say hello," he said. "Sometimes just a smile is a good lead into a conversation."

The Bar Watch program that partners police with pub staff to work on limiting over consumption and over service is also doing well.

"It’s a good way to get to know people. They are happy to talk to you," Carfantan noted. "Sometimes they like to make fun of you and that’s okay too. They know we are out there."