Pubdate: Fri, 30 Mar 2007
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Victoria News
Author: Mark Browne


Rising policing costs are prompting Esquimalt councillors to call for 
a meeting with their counterparts in Victoria.

"It's giving us a real budget problem. In order to reduce the 9.9 per 
cent to something more manageable   we're going to have to do 
something about it: either cutting services or delaying projects that 
we want to do," Esquimalt Coun. Hy Freedman said.

Esquimalt's budget for 2007 could result in a 9.9 per cent property 
tax increase, largely driven by an increase of just under $425,000 
for its share of police costs.

While Esquimalt pays 14 per cent of the overall budget for the 
Victoria Police Department, the town doesn't have any control over it 
as once Victoria council determines the budget, said Esquimalt Mayor 
Chris Clement.

"That's one of the reasons why council decided to protest that and 
whether that has any effect remains to be seen," he said. "We're 
essentially going to write a letter to Victoria and say, 'Look, we 
need to talk about this because it's hurting us.'"

Overtime is a main factor behind escalating police costs. Esquimalt 
council has protested and Clement pointed out that the police board 
has instructed the Victoria Police Department to cut back overtime.

To reduce overtime in the long run it will be necessary to get to the 
roots of crimes that are causing police to work extra hours, Clement said.

The cost of conducting major investigations is high, particularly 
with the related ever-increasing level of paperwork involved, he said.

The increasing demands on police services have much to do with 
substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness, Clement said.

The province has offloaded many responsibilities concerning those 
issues to the police, he said.

"You can't just keep pushing up the police budget and expect us to 
bear those costs." One option is to request help from the province, 
which ordered Esquimalt to amalgamate its police services with 
Victoria's in 2002, Clement said.

Coun. Jane Sterk agreed that a new approach to crime is needed to 
control policing costs.

"I think that when you look at police activities being 85 per cent 
involved with people with substance abuse   that it's time for us to 
say as a society that this isn't working," she said.

"We need to reinvest in social support systems and social programs 
that can deal with the cause rather than the symptoms."
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