RCMP staffing levels raise concerns in rural Manitoba
Josh Crabb, CTV Winnipeg
Published Thursday, November 12, 2015 3:13PM CST
Last Updated Thursday, November 12, 2015 6:37PM CST
Residents in rural Manitoba are concerned a shortage of RCMP officers may be opening the door to criminals.
Their concerns come as RCMP deal with hundreds of vacancies across the country.
CTV News has obtained a staff report which says the police force is struggling to fill those vacancies.
Dairy farmer Mitch Simon wakes up early to milk the cows at his family's farm near Treherne.
It's usually a routine chore but one Saturday in late September at around 4 a.m., Simon came across unexpected and unwanted visitors who had let themselves into his parents’ unlocked home.
"Somebody breaking into your house while you're sleeping, that is scary,” said Simon. “Who knows what could happen."
No one was hurt but Simon said as many as five burglars had already loaded up thousands of dollars of tools and equipment from the farm and got away in a vehicle.
Earlier that same morning, Simon’s neighbour Guy Deleurme captured surveillance video showing a vehicle driving into his yard.
Deleurme said the driver rammed their vehicle into his garage door but got scared off by his alarm system.
"It's a little scary," said Deleurme.
He installed the alarm system after his garage was first broken into this past summer.
Deleurme said he's done what he can to protect his property and wishes RCMP could do more to increase patrols in the area at night.
"It just seems that you don't see them anymore so these guys are getting braver and they're taking more chances," said Deleurme.
His concerns come as the RCMP struggles to fill vacant jobs.
CTV News obtained a staff report dated October of this year which says the RCMP has 1,100 vacant positions across Canada and that current recruiting efforts aren't filling those vacancies fast enough.
RCMP staff relations representative Scott Bird said vacancies are taking a toll on officers who are working unwanted overtime and on-call hours to meet the needs of the communities they serve.
"Our members work,” said Bird. “They work and they work and meet the demands for service."
“My experience is that we have an extremely dedicated group of RCMP officers. When the phone rings, they answer the phone and go but they're getting tired."
Treherne has an RCMP detachment but Simon said it's not clear to him whether the officers who work there are always on duty overnight.
"It's not their fault,” said Simon. “I think it's maybe the system that's in place that is not the best one when we're out in a remote area that they can't serve us the way maybe we need and maybe the thieves know about that."
In a written statement to CTV News, the RCMP said, for safety reasons, it won't discuss which detachments have 24-hour-a day coverage, or where patrolling officers covering communities which don't would come from.
The RCMP said officers are always available to respond to all communities it covers at any given time.
Residents living along the east shores of Lake Winnipeg have also raised concerns about a lack of RCMP patrols during fall and winter when fewer people are living in the area.
It follows violent thefts in Traverse Bay and Lester Beach in August and September.
The reeve for the area, Raymond Garand, said crime is a concern for the RM of Alexander but he said officers working out of the Powerview detachment are doing the best they can to serve a large area with the resources they have.
"It would be nice to have more RCMP in the RM of Alexander, there's no doubt about it but that's a provincial and a federal matter,” said Garand. “We can't address that issue."
No arrests have been made in the Treherne break-ins and it's not clear if the two cases are linked.
Simon worries burglars might strike again and said his family plans to do more to protect their property.
"Security systems and stuff like that will have to be put into place," said Simon.
The RCMP said it’s seen a decrease in crime across the province
In terms of vacancy rates, the RCMP said numbers can fluctuate and only provide a snapshot of a moment in time.
The RCMP said at any given time it may have regular members on parental leave, administrative or off-duty leave, or they may be required to leave their regular duties to meet operational needs elsewhere in the country.
The RCMP said it recruits new regular members based on attrition, retirement rates, and resourcing demands identified by municipal and provincial governments as well as federal policing requirements.
Staff representatives said recruiting may be a challenge, partly because RCMP wages are less attractive than what’s offered by city police forces.
According to the RCMP Pay Council, an RCMP 1st class constable in Manitoba gets paid nearly $12,000 less than a 1st class constable with the Winnipeg Police Service.
- Winnipeg Police Service 1st Class Constable: $94,030
- RCMP 1st Class Constable: $82,108
(Source: RCMP Pay Council)