Presentation to Mayor and Council re 2022 City of Victoria Budget - November 17, 2021
We are addressing two budget items of critical importance to the Downtown and the safety and security of its residents.
First, the budget increase request from the Victoria Police Department, and
Second, the supplemental budget increase request for Bylaw Services.
From the budget documents, we understand VicPD requests a $4.2 million budget increase, $1.2 million more than what is proposed in the draft budget. $1.2 million represents less than 0.5% of the proposed 2022 operating budget of $265 million. We ask that Council approve the full budget request to ensure VicPD is adequately staffed to serve and protect the City and all its citizens.
We have all seen and heard the recent reports in the media of VicPD struggling to respond to even the most important and critical Priority One calls on a timely basis, and of non-emergency calls not being responded to at all.
This situation is not acceptable, and contributes to the view that our City, and especially our downtown neighbourhood, is an unsafe place to live, work or visit. Additional officers are necessary so that incidents can be addressed in a timely manner, and criminal behaviour can be stopped, before it becomes more dangerous and innocent persons, especially the vulnerable, are injured.
We are also aware of reports of staff shortages because of work-related injuries and of sick leave absences due to the high stress levels and other factors. Additional officers will help alleviate this situation. A mentally and physically healthy police force contributes to more effective and compassionate policing, leading to a healthier and safer community.
The DRA has a keen interest in this issue, because much of what makes policing a challenge in Victoria, is on our doorstep in Downtown. We understand that many of the challenges facing police, and many of the residents of our neighbourhood – housed and unhoused — are a direct result of the pandemic. Those least able to sustain housing remain on our streets, where they are often the targets of a criminal element who prey on their vulnerabilities.
We have also reviewed the Supplemental Budget request of an increase of $1.07 million to allow Bylaw Services to hire additional officers. We understand that, like VicPD, Bylaw Services have been stretched as a result of demands due to Covid and the housing crisis, and that many of the bylaw officers are also facing stressful situations.
We have heard from residents that bylaw support is not available after current business hours, and they have been directed to call VicPD, who do not have the capacity to address these types of calls. We hope that additional bylaw officers will result in extended hours of operation that will make the downtown safer and more liveable for residents and visitors alike.
Thank you Mayor and Council for allowing us the opportunity to make this presentation.
Presentation by Douglas Boyd, Vice-President on behalf of the Victoria Downtown Residents Association.