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Victoria keeps downtown patrol program, police board now says some requests can wait

Board previously refused to lower its request for an additional $6 million
Victoria will pay $220,000 to continue a program that sees extra police patrols downtown on the weekend, but the initiative will have to be requested through the police board’s moving forward. (Courtesy of Victoria police/Twitter)

As a current program that sees additional officers patrolling Victoria on weekend nights will be sticking around, the capital’s police board now says it can make concessions in its request for more resources.

Last month, there was some confusion about funding for a program that sees more patrol officers in Victoria’s downtown entertainment district on the weekend. The program was listed under a different name and cut from the city’s budget in February.

Council on Thursday agreed to pay $220,000 to continue the late-night program this year. After many at city hall were confused about why the police initiative gets funded through the city’s budget, council voted to have the additional patrols be included in the police budget going forward. While Victoria and Esquimalt share VicPD’s overall costs, the capital city will pay for the downtown program.

Council approved the expenditure by adding $500,000 to the city’s budget, taking this year’s tax increase up to 6.3 per cent. Aside from maintaining the late-night program, the half-million allocation will also fund a $35,200 pilot that will see increased police patrols downtown for two months, while the remaining $245,000 will go toward downtown revitalization projects.

Victoria in February asked the board to follow in its footsteps and cut new spending to align with inflation (then at 6.96 per cent), but the VicPD board refused to budge from its request for $6 million in increased funding. The board has defended those asks by saying they’re needed to meet legislative requirements under the police act.

Victoria in mid-March reduced the police budget hike to $4.3 million as it cited the financial strain facing taxpayers for why several additional police requests could wait a year. In a letter being presented to council on Thursday, the police board now said it identified items that would have a lower impact on operations should they be deferred this year, but re-issued its call for new hires.

Victoria in March said it won’t fund four new civilian positions, along with one of the three new officers the police board asked for. At the time, some councillors noted the department has not yet filled current vacancies.

“Although we require all three of the requested police officer positions, we believe that accepting the two approved by council is a reasonable compromise,” the board’s letter said.

Esquimalt has said it won’t fund any of the new positions and the police board asked the township to revisit that decision.

Several requests Victoria voted to defer – including money for a training specialist, a body-worn camera pilot, some janitorial services, a periodic top-up to a VicPD benefits reserve and some police headquarter renovations – would have the least impact on police operations, the board said.

The board also said $170,000 from a $370,000 cut Victoria approved could be deferred until 2024. That $170,000 would pay for Indigenous engagement, some computer forensics, emergency preparedness and funds for an equity, diversity and inclusion strategy.

READ: Victoria and Esquimalt in favour of reducing proposed $6M police budget hike

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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