Burns Lake checkstops on the increase

Drinking and driving down; credit given to tough new laws.

Burns Lake RCMP detachment St. Sgt. Grant MacDonald

On Nov. 21, provincial justice minister and attorney general Shirley Bond  announced the preliminary road crash-crash fatality data for the two years ending Sept. 30, 2012.  In those two years following the lowering of the legal blood alcohol limit from .08 per cent to .05 per cent, an estimated 104 lives have been saved.

This is a 46 per cent reduction in fatalities over the previous five years, exceeding the province’s goal of reducing fatalities by 35 per cent.

The province credits the tough new program with the decrease in road fatalities as wells as with reports that show that the level of  drinking and driving in the province is at an all time low since surveys were begun in 1995.

St. Sgt. Grant MacDonald of the Burns Lake RCMP sees the trend reflected in the Lakes District.  There were three fewer people charged this year than last year under the criminal code or under provincial legislation regarding the Immediate Roadside Prohibition that took effect in the fall of 2010.

“I believe increased education has contributed in part to the public making better decisions pertaining to drinking and driving,” said MacDonald.  “Companies and others hosting private parties are better understanding their responsibilities associated with the service of liquor to people.”

With the holiday merry-making season approaching, MacDonald points out that the detachment is not taking for granted that this new awareness will be all it takes to keep drinking and driving off the roads.

“The number of Checkstops was increased from six per member last year to 16 per member for 2012/2013,” said MacDonald.  “It is our goal to reach 16 Checkstops per member by March 31, 2013.”

With 14 regular members, that’s 224 Checkstops scheduled for Burns Lake before the end of March.  While staffing numbers may affect the final total, that is the detachment’s goal said MacDonald.

In other numbers from  the RCMP

In a quarterly report encompassing July 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, MacDonald reports that the calls for service have decreased compared to the same time period last year.

“After a busy spring following the Babine Forest Products mill explosion, the favourable weather over the summer is likely responsible in part for the noted decreases in calls for service and prisoners incarcerated in comparison to the same period in 2011,” said MacDonald in the report.

False or abandoned  911 calls remain a problem for the detachment with the number doubling to 40 from last year.

MacDonald illustrates how these kinds of calls can really hinder the detachment’s ability to respond to emergencies.  “Imagine a false call that takes us to the Southside,” he said.  “We’d have two members stuck over there on a false call when a highway or fire emergency comes up in Burns Lake.”

“It’s an incredible waste of resources,” he said.

False calls from cell phones can be especially resource wasteful said MacDonald.   “When a 911 call originates from a residence or telecommunications tower situated on the Southside, this will generate a two member response,” he said.

Time spent in travel, searching the area around a cell tower and then return to Burns Lake can easily cost six person hours, and this does not include the time spent back at the office to write and process the associate paper work.

“Also, it is very important to point out that when the call for service comes in, the RCMP seeks the assistance of the ferry to get to the Southside,” he added.  This can result in delays of ferry service as schedules are interrupted to accommodate emergency calls, or can even mean an increase cost to the ferry if they have to call out ferry personnel to transport police to the other side.

MacDonald points out that there are some simple things that the public can do to avoid these kinds of false calls.

“Police encourage the public to remain on the line,” he said.  But if you discover after the fact that you’ve ‘pocket dialled’  911 he said that people should call back on the regular police number used to report crime in order to explain the false call.

“Recognizing that they have inadvertently called 911 and speaking to an operator will certainly assist in an unnecessary use of police resources,” he said.


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