It will cost almost $1.4 million more to police Victoria and Esquimalt next year.
If approved by Victoria and Esquimalt councils, the Victoria Police Department’s 2012 budget would rise by 3.3 per cent to $42,958,469.
Much of the increase would “fund the existing staff we have,” said VicPD financial controller Scott Seivewright. “We’re not asking for new resources, new officers or new support staff.”
VicPD brass presented the no-frills budget proposal last week to Victoria and Esquimalt councillors and Victoria Police Board members.
Unlike last year, the department is not asking for more money to bolster its roster of 243 uniformed members and 108 civilians.
The increase would cover about $1.1 million in negotiated wage and benefit increases, mostly for uniformed personnel. Operating costs are projected to rise by about $248,000.
The department regularly looks for ways to save money, but costs are being driven up by overtime costs generated by officers attending court, policing special events such as Canada Day festivities and working more resource-intensive investigations, said VicPD Chief Const. Jamie Graham.
“We don’t spend like drunken sailors,” he said. “We’re very careful about where we spend our money.”
The department isn’t asking for more staff, but additional resources are needed.
“I need more cops but … the city does not have the ability to pay,” Graham said. “Money is tight at the moment.”
The department has one of the highest caseloads in the province, and it is significantly higher than other Capital Region municipalities, said Del Manak, deputy chief of police operations .
About 30 per cent of those cases involve officers responding to incidents involving drug addicts, the mentally ill and the homeless community, said John Ducker, deputy chief of administration.
“I think that within the next few years that will rise to about 50 per cent,” he said. “This is a clear example how we in our two jurisdictions are not dealing with the regional problem.”
Given growing policing costs, Graham said he remains committed to establishing a regionalized police service with about 400 officers policing halfway up the Malahat Drive of the Trans-Canada Highway over to Oak Bay and across the Saanich Peninsula to Sidney.
“We continue to push that envelope and we think in the last six months we’re making head way,” Graham said. “People are returning my calls now, which is always a good sign.”
Victoria police brass have sat down with their Saanich counterparts to propose alternatives, such as departments maintaining their own patrol divisions, but regionalizing all other services, said Graham.
“Our general philosophy now is we’re not entering in any more regional units unless it’s in the best interests of the region,” he said.
Victoria and Esquimalt councils will consider approving the police budget in the new year.
By the numbers:
• Proposed 2012 police budget: almost $43 million
• Proposed increase for 2012: $1,358,599
• 2011 budget: nearly $41.6 million
• Victoria’s share: $36,352,315 or 85 per cent, up by about $1 million
• Esquimalt’s portion: $6,606,153 or 15 per cent, including a $300,000 increase