When Whitehorse RCMP began hearing about vehicle break-and-enters online, they decided to fight the problem with a computer program of their own.
The detachment began using a crime-mapping system in June after hearing about multiple vehicle break-and-enters on social media sites. More incidents were mentioned online than were reported to police.
“There seemed to be a disjoint between what we were hearing anecdotally and what we were seeing in the reported incidents of those property crimes,” said Margo Millette, RCMP criminal analyst.
When people call to report a crime, the information is used to make weekly maps showing where property crime most often occurs. This helps the detachment know where to use officers.
So far, it’s worked.
On Sept. 15, two youth were arrested after police watched them enter two unlocked vehicles on a driveway in Alsek Boulevard early one morning. A third youth stood guard. One was later found to possess stolen property.
The program helped police “make an educated guess” about where to be, said Sgt. Don Rogers with the Whitehorse detachment. In this case, “the member made the right call,” he said.
There are more instances of reported crimes in Riverdale and downtown, said Rogers. This may be because it’s easier to travel to other parts of the city from these areas, he said.
Of the five incidents of vehicle theft reported from Sept. 21 to 27, two happened in Riverdale and one happened downtown.
This is the first time Whitehorse RCMP has used a program like this to analyze crime, said Millette. For the program to work, people need to report all incidents. Even if they see someone going through their vehicle and nothing is taken, the police still need to be called, she said. The phone call only takes a few minutes, and even if officers don’t come to the scene, the information is useful, she said.
The Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce has wanted something like this for a couple of years, said Philip Fitzgerald, chamber chair.
He hears about petty crime and vandalism on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis, he said.
A similar program may be used to track other crimes if needed, said Millette.