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Downtown Victoria businesses and non-profits sign off on 7% police budget increase

Officials with variety of agencies draft joint letter calling on city hall to approve VicPD budget
The Victoria Police Department is asking for $63 million for their 2022 budget. (Black Press Media file photo)

Executives with the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Victoria Business Association, Destination Greater Victoria, Our Place Society, and Victoria Conservatory of Music have put their names to an open letter asking that Victoria City Hall approve VicPD’s increased funding request.

“What we’re really trying to impress upon mayor and council is that this is not an us versus them discussion – this is the downtown community coming together to say we need more resources for our police,” said Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Business Association, pointing to the diverse range of signatories to the letter.

Julian Daly, CEO of Our Place Society, said his organization for those experiencing homelessness endorsed the letter in the hope of seeing officers patrol the North Park neighbourhood more often. In the past, the police department has triaged crime-in-progress calls to the area given an apparent lack of staffing, Daly said. “There’s been time when (VicPD) haven’t been able to come here as quickly, or at all, as they might have done previously,” he said, referring to the one or two disputes out of 10 that occur at Our Place which require police attention.

VicPD’s request to city hall would raise the department’s budget by $4.1 million to $63.39 million for 2022; a seven per cent budget increase, compared to the 1.6 per cent increase provided between 2020 and 2021. Over a quarter of new funds in 2022’s budget ($1.6 million) would fill “expected pay increases,” while the next largest portion ($1.08 million) would go towards “additional resources,” according to the agenda of a Victoria and Esquimalt Police board meeting held Oct. 19.

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Those additional resources would include three police officers dedicated to supporting Island Health, a front desk position currently filled by sworn officers, a cultural liaison officer, a cybercrime sergeant, a records specialist for digital evidence management, and a business intelligence analyst.

“We request that clear value be placed on the VicPD budget proposal, which we understand includes adding civilian mental health support professionals along with additional police officers,” reads the executives’ open letter. “Management of public safety has long been underfunded and understaffed resulting in our current unsafe environment.”

Victoria’s 2020 police-reported crime severity index ranked 15th nationally, according to StatCan.

“We rely on the police a great deal to keep clients and colleagues safe,” said Daly, “and we have an excellent relationship with beat officers and senior leadership at the VicPD.”

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