The Victoria Police Department has disbanded its Crime Reduction Unit (CRU) in response to staffing shortages and 2019 budget changes from the City of Victoria.
The eight-person team has been part of the VicPD crime prevention strategy for over 10 years, and focused on reducing crime by targeting prolific offenders involved in drugs, theft, sexual offences and more.
“We are losing a proactive capacity ,and our ability to prevent crime,” said Chief Const. Del Manak. “I had no other options other than to do this because I have to move my officers to the front lines to answer 911 calls.”
Presently, 35 of the 243 officers are off due to injuries, illness and parental leave.
In addition Manak said budgetary constrictions have limited what the department can do.
After lengthy negotiations with the City of Victoria, it was decided that the Police Department would absorb the costs of the Employer’s Health Tax, totalling $690,000. The City found coverage for these funds by cutting costs to other areas of the VicPD budget, including cuts to its DNA analysis measures, CCTV maintenance contracts, and changes to land line/mobility contracts. One new help desk position was also cut.
The City had also denied the hiring of six new officers in 2018, which was overruled by a provincial appeal by the Police Services Division. The City is now looking to find funds for the hires.
These decisions were put to the test when VicPD turned to the city in June asking for further funding to cover special events, such as Canada Day and Remembrance Day. After much debate, council eventually approved a total of $135,000 for these costs.
Now, however, the last pillar of the VicPD preventative measures are wiped.
“With moves like this we are slowly becoming more of a reactive police organization than a preventative police organization,” Manak said. “I think that’s a very risky road. It’s not a position as a police organization that we want to be in.”
Manak said since the CRU dissolved the department has noticed a difference in being up-to-date with local crime.
The VicPD goal is to eventually reinstate the CRU if possible, but Manak said that at this point he doesn’t foresee how it will happen.
“I’m falling behind. I still haven’t replaced the public school officers and we’ve got an intel officer I had to redeploy,” he said.
Manak added that cutting the CRU isn’t the last change the department will have to make.
“There will be other steps taken to reduce service, cut service or align service in order to find the efficiencies within,” he said. “We’re doing what we can to keep out community safe and it’s becoming more and more of a challenge to do that.”
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