Victoria police Chief Const. Del Manak was looking for his department to hire six more police officers and two civilian staff to better police the Township of Esquimalt.
To do so, he told Esquimalt council recently, it would require an extra $94,000 from the Township. That money won’t be coming anytime soon.
“We’ve heard loud and clear that there is a gap in what we provide and what you’re looking for,” Manak said during his presentation of the 2018-19 Victoria-Esquimalt police budget. That gap is perpetuated by a growing population and a lean police department, he added.
The presentation pointed to the 8.9-per-cent rise in Esquimalt’s population since 2011, well above the 6.5-per-cent CRD average.
While the crime rate has been relatively stable for the last five years, the need for more officers was first identified back in 2012.
Between 16.7 per cent and 21.4 per cent of on-duty patrol resources are assigned specifically to Esquimalt, where roughly 11 per cent of all calls to VicPD originate, Manak said.
“The officers work so hard, 24/7,” he said. “They are not waiting for the next call to come in, there’s a load of calls holding that they wish they could get to sooner.”
An overview of the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) program, a two-year pilot expansion program that began integrating mental health support with policing in 2017, revealed officers have seen “an immediate positive impact.”
Manak requested that the multi-disciplinary team, which includes clinicians and psychologists, be increased from one officer to three at a cost of $37,000 for the Township, where 38 of the ACT clients reside.
“The goal here is to really have a patient-centered, client-focused response and to help people,” he said. “Instead of working in silos, [we want to] work in collaborative teams that are far more effective and able to stabilize people.”
Because mental illness and criminality often intersect, it’s important the department is able to work with other service providers such as Island Health to form strong bonds with individuals, he added.
Councillors were dubious about what were described as “staggering numbers” for the Township’s population of 18,000.
“I’m not supporting it because I actually want to put pressure on the call for regionalization,” Coun. Beth Burton-Krahn said, referring to a regional police force. “I’m sick and tired of Esquimalt residents picking up the cost for Saanich and Oak Bay.”
Mayor Barb Desjardins said she couldn’t support the motion because she did not feel it supported the framework agreement the department initially made with the Township regarding the budget.
Ultimately, council voted down the motion 4-3.