Every week, Victoria police Sgt. Sean Plater straps on his helmet, and jumps on his bike in search of youth causing trouble in Esquimalt and Vic West.
However, this summer Plater has been hard pressed to find youth causing problems in the neighbouring communities.
According to a report by Victoria police to Esquimalt council earlier this week, youth issues and alcohol pour outs have been significantly reduced, with this summer being one of the “quietest” within the past nine years due in part to the Esquimalt Summer Action Plan.
Mayor Barb Desjardins said the township has long had problems with youth in the summer drinking in parks or having bonfires on beaches.
As a result, the action plan was born in 2007 to help mitigate problems caused by youth during the break between school years by increasing the presence of officers in the community.
As part of the plan, six officers, including school resource officers, community resources officers, and the Esquimalt division are deployed alongside six reserve officers on bicycles to patrol problem areas.
From Thursday to Saturday every evening between June 30 and Sept. 3, officers could be seen patrolling problem areas such as parks, beaches, schools and recreation centres.
The increased police presence has worked. This year alone, alcohol pour outs decreased by 50 per cent, from 200 to 84, while the number of calls attended was also reduced from 78 to 42.
There was also a significant reduction in youth problems, mostly due to the fact that officers and patrol officers worked to get to know the youth in the community before problems occurred, said Plater.
“There was a core group of youth that were problematic. This year we were expecting more problems, but we made some proactive arrests, with conditions being put on some people. It broke up the group and a couple of them got jobs,” he said during the Monday meeting. “Problems from that group were significantly reduced.”
The officers have been effective in dealing with other issues as well. Since the dispersal of residents from tent city on the lawns of the courthouse at the end of the summer, there was some concern from residents that campers would move to Esquimalt. While a few did set up camp in local parks, they were “effectively dealt with.”
Desjardins has followed the program closely since its inception and said year after year, she has seen improvement.
“Youth would go off to the parks and have a party . . . sometimes it was disruptive to the street that it was on. The summer action plan is really effective in reducing youth issues and dealing with camping issues in our parks,” she said. “It’s value for money and it’s being done in a fashion that Esquimalt has always said community policing is the way to go…that’s absolutely happening with this program.”