Vol. 80, No. 2News notes

Two police officers walk on snowy sidewalk in city.

Program helps police address social issues

RCMP officers patrol the streets of downtown Yellowknife, N.W.T., to keep an eye out for anyone who could be referred to the Pathfinders program. Credit: Marie York-Condon, RCMP


For years, RCMP officers in Yellowknife, N.W.T. were swamped with repeat calls for social disorder offences that weren't always criminal in nature — such as an unwanted person in a mall, or someone sleeping in a vestibule.

"There was one individual who we had almost 200 calls for service for in one year," says Insp. Matt Peggs, detachment commander of Yellowknife RCMP. "We had to ask ourselves, how do we deal with these high users of emergency services in a new way?"

To reduce the amount of time they were spending on high-frequency callers, the RCMP and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) partnered with the Integrated Case Management Program of the Department of Justice (DOJ). The program — also known as Pathfinders — helps residents with complex needs access services to help them get back on their feet. Many of the program's clients are often transient or homeless.

"When an individual starts dealing with multiple services across multiple departments, that's when issues arise," says Katie-Sue Derejko, manager of the DOJ's case management program. "We try to build rapport with those hard-to-reach people so they don't fall through the cracks."

In June, the RCMP and EMS identified their top 15 frequent callers, and referred them to the program. Pathfinders case workers are now helping those identified people navigate services so they can overcome issues related to homelessness, addiction and mental health.

Since the RCMP began collaborating with the DOJ, Peggs says calls for service and the number of people incarcerated for social disorder and mischief offences have declined. While part of this decrease is likely due to Pathfinders, it can also be attributed to several other city-led initiatives happening simultaneously, including a sobering center and an outreach van.

For the RCMP, Peggs says intelligence gathering and the quality of investigations have improved since the program started. He says because officers are able to spend more time out on the roads, impaired driving charges are up 41 per cent compared to the same time period last year.

"It's about putting the right resources to the right problem," says Peggs. "Now we have time to do that proactive policing, as opposed to responding to calls better suited for other agencies. We're using our resources more efficiently."

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