The workload of the RCMP’s major crime unit is “through the roof,” and police officers are going to have to prioritize which cases get their attention first, said Yukon RCMP Supt. Brian Jones.
The Yukon has now had nine homicides in the last 12 months including five since April. That’s a dramatic climb for a territory that went years without seeing a single murder. The Yukon had no homicides between 2011 and 2013, three in 2014 and one in 2015, according to the most recent data from Statistics Canada.
“The question is, is the ground permanently shifting or is this a terrible, horrible, year?” Jones said. “A terrible, horrible year will have an impact downstream for us for many years as we work on these (cases.) These files do not go away.”
Earlier this week police ruled the death of Wilfred “Dickie” Charlie a homicide.
Charlie was last seen near his Carmacks home June 19. His body was found in the Yukon River July 5.
On July 2 police charged Edward James Penner, 20 with first degree murder in connection to the June 28th death of 25-year-old Adam Cormack.
The murder of Greg Dawson, is still being investigated. His body was found April 6 at a home in Riverdale.
Police are also investigating the homicides of Wendy Carlick and Sarah MacIntosh. The women were found dead April 19 in the McIntyre subdivision.
At this point there’s nothing that connects the crimes, Jones said.
“We haven’t solved all of them, so that still remains open. Do I think that there’s a serial killer? No.”
The RCMP’s seven-member major crime unit is leading the investigation in all of these cases. Along with the most recent murders, officers in that unit are responsible for investigating other unsolved homicides as well as various historic cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
RCMP officers from Outside were brought in to help with the Cormack investigation to free up local officers who were investigating Charlie’s death, Jones said. Those officers have since gone home, leaving the major crime unit in charge.
“What they’re going to have to do … is have really difficult conversations about prioritizing the files that they have because there’s no way that they can work on all of them at the same time with the same speed and energy level,” Jones said.
There’s no set criteria for which homicide cases will get attention first, Jones said. Consideration will be given to how far each file has progressed and what evidence is available.
“In each and every case it’s a difficult decision to make knowing that it has impact on families. Those are not easy discussions,” he said.
Still, Jones said he’s confident cases will be solved.
The spike in homicides will likely mean changes to the RCMP’s budget next year, Jones said.
“What that’s going to look like, whether that’s new money, reallocation of existing money, those are all discussions that we have to have.”
Policing in the territory is paid for with a combination of federal and territorial money. Under the current policing agreement, the Yukon pays 70 per cent of the cost.
The RCMP hasn’t made a formal request to the territorial government for more money but the Justice Department is in contact with the division, said assistant deputy minister Al Lucier.
“We are aware of the workload of major crime unit given the recent and unusual violent crime,” he said.
Requests for long-term changes, like hiring more police officers, start around September so they can be worked into the next territorial budget.
“We’re going to take a look at everything and then come forward as part of our annual submission,” Jones said. “This is an extraordinary time and I know that the status quo needs to change.”
The RCMP could also request emergency one-time funding if the division believes it’s going to go over its annual funding cap for the year, Lucier said. That hasn’t happened yet either.
The RCMP spending cap was not immediately available.
The short term needs of a division in the middle of nine homicide cases are simpler for Jones to articulate.
“Right now we need a break … we don’t need another (murder), fundamentally.”
Contact Ashley Joannou at firstname.lastname@example.org