Saanich’s involvement in the Greater Victoria Regional Crime Unit won’t change in the wake of Sidney and North Saanich pulling its funding from the integrated force.
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard says the municipality will “carry on” contributing four officers to the unit, which focuses on catching prolific property thieves – at least for the foreseeable future.
What makes the future uncertain, Leonard says, is last week’s report from Attorney General Shirley Bond that promises another look at regional policing in Greater Victoria.
“That will address all the different arrangements and help us get to some consistency,” the mayor said.
Leonard, a strong proponent of integrating services as opposed to amalgamating police departments, says he’s disappointed both Sidney and North Saanich will no longer fund the RCU.
Saanich police chief Mike Chadwick agrees that being part of integrated units like the RCU is a better strategy than a single regional police department.
“There are different ways some of the critical needs (of the region) can be met without amalgamating the whole group. I don’t see Saanich taxpayers will want to go from paying $214 per person to $400 per person to simply split half their department to police downtown,” Chadwick said.
“We certainly see tremendous value in being part of (the RCU),” the chief added. “(Fewer municipalities) diminishes the collaborative effort, but I don’t know that it’s necessarily going to weaken the unit.”
The Sidney/North Saanich RCMP didn’t have a member working in the RCU, but the pullout by both municipalities results in $99,000 less in funding over the next 12 months. Victoria police pulled out of the RCU in 2009.
Oak Bay police chief Mark Fisher, a member of the RCU joint management team, said the funding cut likely means member training and overtime will be reduced.
“Less financial or human resources makes it more challenging,” Fisher said. “Now there’s a smaller budget to work with for the year, and we’ll reevaluate when it comes to 2014. We’ll have a better idea of the impact (of less funding) then, too.”
The RCU has an annual budget of roughly $1.1 million, 54 per cent of which is paid by Saanich.
North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall says her municipality wasn’t getting its money’s worth, considering the investment it’s put in over the last five years.
The RCU responded to North Saanich only four or five times since 2008, while the unit responded to Sidney just once.
“There were not a lot of action calls for us or for Sidney. This was the consideration for both towns – a significant expenditure each year with low use,” Finall said.
The RCU is staffed by Saanich, Oak Bay, and Central Saanich police, and West Shore and provincial RCMP officers. Sooke RCMP provides a financial contribution.
– with files from Steven Haywood