A cut in funding will reduce CounterAttack roadblocks this holiday season, but Greater Victoria police say that won’t stop them from cracking down on drinking and driving.
An increased police presence on the roads is starting mid-December, but for many departments the number of extra, overtime roadblocks deployed will be less than in past years.
Saanich Police Department’s overtime roadblocks have been reduced from the usual nine to three. Victoria police is receiving $15,000 to fund extra roadblocks this winter, versus $45,000 in 2012. West Shore RCMP does not get extra funding for CounterAttack.
“It’s been reduced from our numbers over previous years, however we are still actively involved in the program,” said Saanich police Sgt. Steve Eassie.
ICBC supports the CounterAttack program through a funding agreement with B.C.’s Ministry of Justice.
An ICBC spokesperson said the agency is investing about $23.7 million in “enhanced enforcement” in B.C. in 2013, including CounterAttack, speed enforcement and seat belt checks. This amount is consistent with prior years, but the money is distributed by the ministry.
Reduced funding for the winter CounterAttack is due to an increased focus on the summer CounterAttack program and an overall new approach to the distribution of funds. Winter CounterAttack is running about half the length of time it did last year, resulting in decreased funding and fewer roadblocks.
Justice Minister Suzanne Anton, in a statement, said the government has, as in past years, contributed more than $1 million of overtime funding to police for impaired driving enforcement in 2013.
“Police agencies set enforcement priorities and remain dedicated to B.C.’s tough approach to drinking and driving,” Anton’s statement reads. “Overall, enforcement continues to help contribute to the lowest levels of alcohol-related traffic fatalities on record in B.C.”
A total of 11 independent police forces are sharing $150,000 for winter CounterAttack overtime pay.
Even with the reduced presence, Eassie said officers will still be out keeping the roads safe.
“These are three (roadblocks) above and beyond our regular strength,” Eassie said. “Our officers will still be out and about for our regular patrols seven days a week, 24 hours a day and those roadblocks can pop up at any time.”
“We can only hope that our citizens are making the right choices.”
During December, an average of five people are killed in B.C. in crashes involving impaired driving.