The Yukon RCMP has seen an increase in domestic assaults and Mental Health Act cases over the past three months compared to the same timeframe last year.
Officers opened 79 domestic assault-related files between March 1 and May 25, Supt. Chan Daktari Dara said in an interview June 2. That’s compared to 62 files for the same period last year.
As well, there were 192 Mental Health Act files opened during that time in 2020, compared to 143 in 2019.
There was also a small increase in drug trafficking and possession cases — 58, compared to 2019’s 51.
Dara said it was “hard to say” whether those increases were tied to COVID-19 and the associated measures authorities have put in place in an attempt to stem its spread.
“I can only tell you what we’re seeing. … Beyond that, I don’t know if there’s a connection there to the COVID, but you know, one could only imagine, right?” he said.
“Everybody’s at home more, right? And then you know, there’s also the stress surrounding the COVID … (but) there’s a number of factors that’s really beyond my expertise to really comment on it with any accuracy, you know what I mean?”
The Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, had listed, during his COVID-19 update May 29, the increase in calls to Yukon RCMP in those areas as among the reasons he was “increasingly concerned about the overall health and wellness of our territory.”
Dara, however, said he didn’t believe the change in the number of cases was “remarkable,” noting that there had also been an increase in domestic assault and Mental Health Act cases from 2018 to 2019 as well (55 and 127, respectively).
They also haven’t impacted the RCMP’s operations as overall, he explained, because police have actually seen a slight decrease in call volume overall during the same three-month span, with fewer general nuisance, disturbance and break-and-enter calls.
Whether it’s had an impact on the volume and nature of calls police are responding to, Dara said RCMP staff, like everyone else, are taking COVID-19 precautions. Officers have been given gloves, glasses and two kinds of masks — N95s and P100s, the latter of which also offer protection when officers have to handle substances like fentanyl — that they can use at their discretion. In Whitehorse, the detachment has also been rearranged to allow for physical distancing, with eating areas, training spaces and “every possible nook and cranny in the building” being used for desk space.
Officers can still ride together on patrols, Dara noted, or otherwise break physical distancing measures when public safety requires it.
“We’re like everybody else, we’re just waiting to get back to our new normal,” he said.
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