The Victoria Downtown Residents Association has reviewed the budget request from the Victoria Police Department (VicPD) and has written this letter to Mayor and Council in support of their request for a budget increase of 7.05% above the 2021 allocation, to allow the hiring of 6 additional police officers and 4 additional administrative staff.
As we understand it, from budget documents reviewed, VicPD are asking for an increase of $4.2 million, whereas according to the draft budget, Council has approved an increase of $2.98 million. This is a difference of $1.22 million, which represents less than 0.5% of the proposed 2022 operating budget of $264.7 million. We agree with the following statement from Doug Crowder VicPD Finance Committee Chair: "Freezing staff levels during the past few years may have proven to be somewhat short sighted. Largely because of increased criminality, violence, and social challenges, our officers are experiencing a significantly higher workload in an increasingly dangerous environment. VicPD is also required to implement provincial and justice department mandates that have been downloaded to the municipalities and the police. Officers are unable to sustain the resulting heavy workload and it is leading to burnout and a decline in our officers' mental health and wellness. Our deployable work force has not kept up with the increased public safety demands and the current trend is not sustainable. Finally, proactive and community engagement is an important service that helps reduce crime, build community trust, and keep our officers healthy and safe.”
We have all seen and heard reports of VicPD struggling to respond to even Priority One calls, and of non-emergency calls not being responded to. We are distressed when we hear the recent reports of Priority One calls to VicPD taking 10-15 minutes to respond to and other calls much longer, on occasion with calls holding for more than 50 hours: https://www.timescolonist.com/local-news/vicpd-says-some-callers-waiting-more- than-50-hours-for-police-response-4691028 We also hear reports of staff shortages because of work-related injuries due to increasing levels of violence on our streets and sickness absences due to the high stress levels and other factors.
The DRA has a keen interest in this issue because what makes Victoria a policing challenge is precisely the mix in its Downtown. We understand that many of the challenges facing police in our neighbourhood are a direct result of the pandemic, as limited access to community supports has forced many vulnerable people into survival mode. Those least able to sustain housing remain on the streets, where they are often the target of a criminal element who prey on their vulnerabilities.
As Downtown residents, we need safe and lively streets, residences and businesses secure from violence and property crime, and adequate and timely help for distressed people. And all people who come to Downtown to work, shop or seek entertainment share these same safety needs. Our view is that VicPD must have sufficient resources to maintain a high level of service and support to our community. It is very apparent that this is not currently the situation, and that the budget request from VicPD must be funded in full in the 2022 budget. Board of Directors, Victoria Downtown Residents Association