Abbotsford-Mission’s rate of police officers per 100,000 population is among the lowest one-third of census metropolitan areas (CMA) in Canada.
But local citizens are generally happy with the service they are receiving from the Abbotsford Police Department (APD), says spokesman Const. Ian MacDonald.
A report called “Police resources in Canada, 2014” – released Monday by Statistics Canada – indicates that the Abbotsford-Mission CMA has a rate of 148 officers per 100,000 population, putting it 22nd on the list of 33 CMAs, ranked from highest to lowest.
The top five CMAs are Winnipeg with a rate of 191, followed by Thunder Bay (187), Montreal (186), Regina (177) and Windsor (176).
At the bottom of the list is Saguenay, Que., with 106 officers per 100,000 people.
The Abbotsford-Mission CMA is listed as having 262 officers. Of those, 212 work for the Abbotsford Police Department and the remainder are with the Mission RCMP.
It specifies that factors contributing to differences in the rates include police services’ priorities, policies, procedures and enforcement practices, as well as the availability of resources.
MacDonald said he believes local residents are pleased with the job the APD is doing, based on comments received directly from people as well as the results of two citizen satisfaction surveys conducted by University of the Fraser Valley.
The first survey was done in 2010, with 93 per cent of respondents indicating they were satisfied with the APD. That number rose to 95 per cent when the second survey was conducted in 2012.
MacDonald said a higher rate of officers doesn’t necessarily equate to better policing.
“What we think is more important is do citizens feel they’re getting an effective police service,” he said.
He said people will always want more officers, but limited budgets mean police agencies have to learn to work effectively with given resources.
MacDonald said the way APD handles non-emergency calls is an example. In the past, patrol officers would have been assigned to go in person to such calls, tying up valuable resources for more urgent matters.
Now these less-urgent files are handled by a general investigation section, which initially handles the reports over the phone to determine whether a follow-up interview is required in person.
MacDonald said another way the APD has become more efficient is by using crime analysis to better determine where police resources should be focused – for example, in a neighbourhood where a high rate of break-ins is occurring.
The Statistics Canada report indicates there were almost 69,000 police officers across the nation and approximately 8,700 in B.C. in 2014.