-Esquimalt residents call for a new approach to policing.
Approximately fifty Esquimalt residents attended a recent Town Hall meeting on the state of our policing.
Mayor Barb Desjardins took the opportunity to inform the community on the status of a key provincial government audit recommendation that Esquimalt contract out for its own police services rather than the current amalgamated policing we have with the City of Victoria. (See post below, dated March 10, 2010).
She stated that Esquimalt will move quickly in the next few months with the Province to appoint an inaugural Esquimalt Police Board that will be tasked with establishing Esquimalt’s new policing model. Esquimalt’s choices will be limited to contracting with either VicPD or Saanich Police. The RCMP, the only other viable option, are not accepting any new contracts until after their 2012 collective agreement is negotiated.
During the public input session, community complaints mostly revolved around poor police response times. Some people indicated waiting as much as three hours for police to respond to calls. There was also a lot of frustration expressed about teenagers drinking noisily after dark in neighbourhood parks with no patrolling from police. Police Chief Jamie Graham responded that VicPD are trying their best with limited resources and the audience seemed willing to hear him out and keep the door open to continuing our association with VicPD.
We, as a community, have an important decision to make. Essentially, we have two options. We can renegotiate a new relationship with the VicPD to provide contracted services based on terms that work better for Esquimalt’s needs. Or, we can go a new direction altogether and contract our policing from Saanich.
The track record with VicPD has not been good for Esquimalt. In fairness, VicPD does not have it easy. They are dealing with difficult budget constraints, police officer numbers much lower than the provincial average, and a very challenging responsibility to police Victoria’s complex, inner-city, “downtown” plethora of crime issues, including the very time-consuming social problems of substance abuse that most of us prefer to turn a blind eye to.
In Esquimalt, we have mostly suburban crime problems that are more likely to be deemed “low priority calls” by an urban-focused police force. And, that means we are paying for a service that it not being fully provided. By contrast, the crime issues and policing expectations of Esquimalt and Saanich are much more compatible. By all accounts, Saanich Police are better managed, in better financial shape, and provide a higher level of service with police staffing levels much better than the provincial average.
According to their mission statement, Saanich Police strives “to provide quality police service by working with our partners and to ensure the safety and security of our community.” That sounds about right for Esquimalt.