The Victoria Police Department reports a more than 100 per cent increase in calls for service near Topaz Park since March 15.
On March 23 the City of Victoria said it would open three parks as temporary sites for the area’s homeless population to help support social distancing regulations. Since then, plans have changed and only one site — Topaz Park — is being used to support the homeless, in addition to those who have chosen to stay on Pandora Avenue.
According to Cameron MacIntyre, spokesperson for VicPD, since March 15 VicPD is reporting a 126 per cent increase in calls near Topaz Park. Most calls are related to public disorder, which MacIntyre says could include anything from unwanted persons, panhandlers, people intoxicated in public, fights and drug-related calls such as open-air drug use. MacIntyre said they’ve seen a 260 per cent increase in public disorder service calls in that area as well in the same time period.
Overall VicPD has seen a 22 per cent increase in calls for service since March 15.
“We have been focusing on areas such as this where we have had rising calls for service. Our officers are conducting proactive enforcement and remaining highly visible to combat the rising trend,” said MacIntyre.
City of Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps addressed the issue at the City’s daily briefing on April 16, saying the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board – which she co-chairs – anticipates an update from VicPD at its next meeting April 21.
“At that point, we’ll get an update from the chief on whether he feels new resources are warranted, at which point, I guess the police board would potentially open up its budget and have those kinds of conversations with both councils,” Helps said, adding that the virus has suspended training at the Justice Institute of B.C.
“We can do all of the authorization for hiring that we want,” she said. “But there’s no ability to train new officers at this point.”
Topaz Park sits a block away from the Saanich-Victoria border at Tolmie Avenue. The Saanich Police Department has also noted a general increase in property-related crimes — up by 30 per cent from March 13 to April 15 when compared to the same period in 2019.
“Over the past month, Saanich police have investigated a significant increase in property related crimes such as break and enters to businesses, underground parking garages, and thefts from motor vehicles. We have taken measures by allocating resources to assist in both preventing and investigating these types of criminal activities in Saanich,” said Markus Anastasiades, public information and communications officer with the Saanich Police Department. “Comparatively, reports of violent crimes have significantly reduced over the same time period.”
– With files from Nina Grossman.