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Prince George response to crime ‘not working… getting worse’

City council heard from a team of expert consultants hired to review the city’s police service levels.
RCMP detachment
Prince George RCMP are struggling to deal with a surge in crime, according to a report presented to city council on Wednesday.

A survey of 1,504 Prince George residents found that 79 per cent of respondents felt crime was getting worse in the city and feelings of being unsafe were pervasive, Prince George city council heard during a committee of the whole meeting on Wednesday.

And Prince George residents have every reason to feel that way, Simon Fraser University professor of criminology Curt Griffiths said. Griffiths was the lead consultant and author of a report looking at police service levels in Prince George.

Media reports and social media can create the sense that crime is on the rise when it’s really not, he said, but that isn’t the case here. In 2021, the rate of Criminal Code violations committed in Prince George was 150 per cent higher than in other B.C. communities with 15,000 or more people, he said.

“In Prince George these are aligned. People are afraid of crime and (fear for their) safety because they should be – that’s unusual. (And) there is a huge hidden figure of crime, because people aren’t reporting. These figures should be worse,” Griffiths said. “The model you are using is not working and things seem to be getting worse. You can’t arrest your way out of this situation… a lot of this is social issues.”

Prince George RCMP officers are carrying caseloads 84 per cent higher than average. And officers faced a “tsunami” of calls for service, Griffiths added, 41 per cent higher than other B.C. communities with 15,000 people or more.

While crime and social disorder used to be concentrated to specific areas of the city, it’s now spread to every part of the community, he added.

The situation is taking a toll on the city’s RCMP officers and civilian staff, he added. Currently 20 per cent of the detachment’s officers are on leave, many for mental health reasons, he said, and 20 per cent more probably should be.

“We see ourselves as the messengers between all the people we talked to and you,” Griffiths told council on Wednesday. “They are struggling… if you give them 10 more officers, five might be off on stress leave within a year. There were 12-hour shifts where officers never even took a coffee break. They are challenged to meet their shift minimums. That is a kind of a canary in the coal mines.”

As a result, the detachment has been forced to move almost all its officers to doing reactive policing - responding to calls - he said, instead of proactive policing.

“That is a major gap in their capacity,” Griffiths said. “They are missing a huge chunk of what a police service should be doing.”


Griffiths said the report he and his co-authors prepared, which recommends hiring 19 additional RCMP officers and 11+ additional civilian support staff over five years, isn’t just about adding more resources. A Community Safety and Well-being Plan is needed to get all the different agencies working on social issues, he said.

“I want to be frank, there is no plan here,” he said. “There are incredible agencies in this city… but there is nothing to tap into.”

As a result, Griffiths said, each agency is working in a “silo of excellence,” he said – each full of dedicated professionals doing good work, but with no overall plan to change the social issues which are the root of the city’s crime and disorder.

“Part of the plan is buy in. You build it from the ground up, so (partner agencies) have a stake in it,” Griffiths said. “Our recommendations for the police are what would make them a good partner in that plan.”


In many cases, RCMP officers are being called to address mental health and addictions issues, without the resources to help, Griffiths said.

“The minute an addicted person says to a police officer, ‘OK, I am ready to go (to treatment),’ you can’t say ‘OK, I’ll get back to you in a year.’ You have to take them right then,” he said. “Your $200,000 (per year police officers) are babysitting people, often the same people over and over again, because of the lack of provincial resources.”

But after 5 p.m. and on weekends, there is no one else who will respond when called, Griffiths said, “it’s sworn (police) officers, or nobody.”

That’s why the Edmonton Police Service has committed to hiring 15 social workers to respond to calls, either on their own or with police officers, he said.

“If the province isn’t going to show up or be a reliable partner… then you have your own capacity that will show up at 3 a.m..”

Griffith’s co-author, Kwantlen Polytechnic University criminology professor Joshua Murphy, spent 50 hours riding along with Prince George RCMP officers on calls.

“I was shocked at the number of mental health calls RCMP responded to that involved youth,” Murphy said.

On one call he rode along with, a teenage girl had slit her wrists in public after a dispute with a boyfriend, he added.

That is why the report proposes adding four school resource offices, creating a four-officer youth liaison team and adding a second Car 60 (which is a partnership between the RCMP and Northern Health, which has a mental health nurse ride with a police officer) focused on youth mental health, he said.

“We saw Car 60 in action and we saw cases where Car 60 couldn’t show up,” Murphy said.

In one case, a teenage girl suffering from undiagnosed mental health problems had barricaded herself in a room and wouldn’t come out, he said. Her mother was worried she might harm herself and called police. The general patrol officer arrived and tried to talk to the girl, who woudn’t open the door, until Car 60 arrived, Murphy said.

“The nurse did most of the talking,” and was able to get the girl to come out and offered her and her mother information on mental health resources they could access, he said.

The situation was resolved, “in a way more peaceful way than a (RCMP) member kicking in a door on a 14-year-old girl,” Murphy said.

In another case, police were called to do a wellness check on a man looking very depressed and sitting alone in a park, he said.

Car 60 wasn’t available, so the best the officer could do was “have a conversation, and hope the guy doesn’t go kill himself,” Murphy said.


“Your report was visceral.. I hated hearing it, and that’s why we need to hear it now more than ever,” Coun. Garth Frizzell said. “You gave us an eye-opening experience… at a time when we needed our eyes opened.”

Mayor Simon Yu said the report paints a picture of “an unhappy city,” but the glimmer of hope is the recommendation to create a Community Safety and Well-Being Plan.

He said he hopes to form an advisory committee to take on the role of developing and championing the plan, so it can be developed as soon as possible. The proposed addition of four RCMP officers and two civilian staff was forwarded to the city’s budget meetings for consideration.

City council referred the report to their strategic planning session in January, and to the Standing Committee on Intergovernmental Relations.

Coun. Brian Skakun said he worries if the city starts hiring social workers and taking on the province’s mandate to address mental health and addictions issues, it will just be another cost downloaded onto city taxpayers.

Coun. Kyle Sampson agreed, saying he understands why cities like Edmonton are doing it, but “it’s a slippery slope.”

Coun. Cori Ramsay said city council is faced with a hard choice.

“Are we going to invest in making our community safer and accept the downloading? Or do we keep advocating and wait (for provincial help?)” she said. “Yeah, it’s not fair that the province is downloading these costs… but something needs to be done.”