File # Cop Talk
2014-01-16 15:29 PST

In the absence of any questions submitted by readers, (perhaps everyone was too busy over the holidays) I've decided to write about a topic that came up in the Tri-Cities NOW's first-ever Twitter forum. The topic was "crime and safety" and there was a lot of discussion about prolific offenders; how they impact the communities we serve, what the police are doing about it, and what the community can do to help.

I want to start by explaining how we identify and target prolific offenders. In a general sense, prolific offenders are the relatively small number of people who are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime and disorder in the communities we serve. Some police agencies refer to these individuals as "chronic" offenders and different police agencies have different criteria for an individual to be considered a "prolific" or "chronic" criminal. In the Coquitlam RCMP we call them "prolific" offenders so that is what I'll use for the rest of this piece.

No matter what term is used, police agencies, as well as our partners in the justice system and community social services, agree that prolific offenders are a threat to community safety and a big drain on resources. In theory by focusing our attention on these individuals we can maximize community safety while being smart with our resources. From a policing perspective, that means doing what we can to disrupt their criminal activity.

Two questions that are often asked about prolific offenders are: how many are there and how much crime are they responsible for. These are tough questions to answer simply but I'll try to give some perspective.

Research (done by academics as well as police officers) indicates that prolific offenders make up between five and 15 per cent of the overall criminal population and are responsible for up to 50 per cent of crime. Of course, estimates can vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction based on a variety of factors but the range is a good place to start.

In Coquitlam RCMP, we maintain a list of prolific offenders whose activities are monitored and targeted by our crime analysts and investigators. As these individuals are arrested, charged and incarcerated they are replaced on the list. I won't say how many individuals are on the list but I will say we have never faced a situation where we ran out of targets.

As for the local impact, I will offer a "case study" of prolific offender X. X has more than 95 convictions, mostly for property crime. X is particularly active in vehicle break-ins. X was arrested and charged with property crime offences in August of 2013, was sentenced to jail time, and was released in October. X was in jail for the entire month of September. During September the number of vehicle break-ins in our jurisdiction were down 35 per cent. X was out of jail for the entire month of November. During November vehicle break-ins rebounded and were up 36 per cent.

Chart illustrating the 'case study' of prolific offender X:  X has more than 95 convictions, mostly for property crime. X is particularly active in vehicle break-ins. X was arrested and charged with property crime offences in August of 2013, was sentenced to jail time, and was released in October. X was in jail for the entire month of September. During September the number of vehicle break-ins in our jurisdiction were down 35 per cent. X was out of jail for the entire month of November. During November vehicle break-ins rebounded and were up 36 per cent.
(Click on chart for larger image)

I'm happy to report that X was recently arrested again and will hopefully be out of action for the near future. But X is not alone and our work is not done.

I hope that answers the forum questions about the impact of prolific offenders on the communities served by the Coquitlam RCMP.

As for what police are doing about it, our investigators and crime analysts work hard to monitor and target our local prolific offenders as part of the Coquitlam RCMP’s Crime Reduction Strategy. And our approach is effective; we are getting good results.

How could we get better results? That's where you come in. The best thing you can do to stop prolific offenders is to report criminal and suspicious activity. Even the small stuff. Every time. Working together we can build safer communities.


Disclaimer:

"Cop Talk" is a monthly column produced as a partnership between the Coquitlam RCMP and External link, opens in a new windowThe Tri-Cities NOW based on questions submitted by readers. Cpl. Jamie Chung is the Media Relations Officer for the Coquitlam RCMP. Questions can be submitted to editorial@thenownews.com. You can follow Coquitlam RCMP on Twitter (@cqrcmp) and visit the Coquitlam RCMP's website(www.coquitlam.rcmp.ca) for more information about policing and public safety in your community.

The contents of this column are based on Cpl. Chung's professional opinion, training and experience and are not intended to reflect official RCMP policy or other legislation.
 

Email: bcrcmp@rcmp-grc.gc.ca


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