DRA allies with neighbours on police amalgamation

July 10, 2008 at 1:50 pm 2 comments

It’s not often that Victoria’s community associations (13 in all) agree on a simple issue. But the issue of police amalgamation has galvanized the associations into urging the Province to implement it. All the associations that took part in a recent “meet the police board” event agreed that writing a letter to the Solicitor General was a good first step, and a way to let the Province know how important police amalgamation is to the health and safety of the region. Here is the letter, drafted by Rockland’s John Weaver based on thoughts and stats given at last month’s police board meet and greet. If you feel strongly you can write a letter too.

The Honourable John van Dongan PO Box 5276, STN B
Solicitor General of British Columbia Victoria, BC
PO Box 9053, STN PROV GOVT V8R 6N2
Victoria, BC, V8W 9E2
June 2008
Dear Mr. van Dongan,

As representatives of the Neighbourhood Associations of the City of Victoria, we are writing to express our deep concern about the effectiveness of the multiplicity of disparate police forces in the Capital Region, and to inform you in particular of our unanimous belief that the current structure is both unfair and unsustainable.

At present the financial burden of providing police services in the downtown core, where serious crime, rowdy behaviour associated with bars and nightclubs, homelessness and drug dealing are concentrated, falls disproportionately on the taxpayers of Victoria and Esquimalt alone. Although the combined population of these two municipalities is only 95,000 (2006 figures) the police department they are supporting is effectively providing services for a regional population of nearly 350,000 which uses Victoria as its downtown. As a result the Victoria Police Department has the highest case-load per officer in the entire Province while in the neighbouring municipalities the corresponding case-loads are below the Provincial average. Over 50% of crimes processed by Victoria police are committed by residents of other municipalities in the Capital Region.

In order to maintain these services, the Victoria Department has recently recruited nineteen new officers although it needs a total of sixty-six to bring its workload down to the Provincial average. The cost of this minimal recruitment has already been reflected in the tax assessments on Victoria and Esquimalt residents, but funding of the total number of officers required would clearly impose an unacceptably heavy burden on these same taxpayers. Moreover, since the under-staffed and overworked Victoria police department must concentrate its efforts on dealing with downtown crime on behalf of the whole region, it is impossible for it to provide the same level of community policing that is enjoyed by other municipalities. With the population of the Capital Region expected to increase by 11.3% before 2010, most of it in the outlying municipalities, this unsatisfactory situation will rapidly deteriorate unless radical measures are taken now.

By an Order in Council authorised by former Solicitor General, Rich Coleman, the police division of the former Esquimalt Police & Fire Department was amalgamated with the Victoria Police Department on 1 January, 2003. The integration of the two departments has worked well, although Esquimalt residents might well ask why only they among all the neighbouring municipalities have been called upon to help Victoria shoulder the cost of downtown policing. At the time of this amalgamation we were led to believe it would serve as a trial for the eventual integration of other police departments in Greater Victoria into a regional force. In fact we understand that a model for further amalgamation was drawn up and was ready to be implemented, but has since been quietly shelved. The need for this to be reactivated was never more obvious than at the time of the tragic multiple murder/suicide in Oak Bay last year when a bizarre series of events involving three separate police departments, misdirected emergency calls and unreliable communications revealed a complete lack of central authority and direction and the inability of a small, ill-equipped police department to respond to a major crime of this nature when it occurs within the boundaries of its jurisdiction. Lives might have been saved had a regional police force been in place.

Although there can be no other metropolitan region in Canada with so many different police departments serving a population of 350,000, parochialism and self-interest will, unfortunately, prevent amalgamation from being initiated by the other municipalities of Greater Victoria. Only courageous and decisive action by the Provincial Government can rectify this anomalous and unsustainable situation. In the interests of fairness, equity, sustainability and efficiency, we urge you and the Government to recognise that this urgent problem needs immediate attention.

Yours respectfully,

Burnside Gorge Community Association
Downtown Residents Association
Fairfield Community Association
Fernwood Community Association
James Bay Neighbourhood Association
North Jubilee Neighbourhood Association
North Park Neighbourhood Association
Oaklands Community Association
Rockland Neighbourhood Association
South Jubilee Neighbourhood Association
Victoria West Community Association

Entry filed under: social issues.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. davin  |  July 11, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Do you think it’s ever going to happen?

    I seem to recall this issue coming up regularly throughout my whole life.

    I’m not trying to say it isn’t going to happen, I am just wondering if we’re any further along than we were before, and what your opinion would be on the subject.

    Reply
  • 2. robertrandall  |  July 11, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Because of the volatile atmosphere surrounding the ‘A’ word, you won’t hear a peep out of the Province until after the election. Even then, it’s a tough sell because many of the municipalities affected vote strongly Liberal. Residents are suspicious of any plan they feel would result in fewer police resources and higher taxes.

    But I never would have thought the Liberal government would be dumping millions of dollars to help solve Victoria’s social problems, either but here we are.

    Police amalgamation is just plain common sense and every show of support becomes another step closer to the destination.

    Keith Vass of the Victoria News called me yesterday to discuss this. I told him it’s about more than sharing costs–recruits don’t join the force to cruise about the suburbs aimlessly. Nor do Downtown cops relish the strain of urban policing and the endless amount of sidewalk social work it entails. Suburban officers want to get in on the Downtown action and bust criminals. Urban police officers need a break once in a while. All cops want amalgamation. The Vic PD and the civilian Police Board want it. Only the politician and brass out in Oak Bay, Saanich etc. greedily want the status quo.

    Reply

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