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RCMP, City of Prince George ‘working in silos’ on crime, social issues, experts find

A Community Safety and Well-being Plan is needed to coordinate efforts by the city, provincial agencies and community groups, a report going before city council on Wednesday says.
Millennium Park homeless camp
A tent encampment in Millennium Park at First Avenue and George Street is seen in a Citizen file photo. Efforts to address crime and social issues in Prince George have been "fractured" and "siloed" between agencies, a report going before city council on Wednesday says.

Efforts to address crime, addictions and homelessness in Prince George have been “siloed” and “fractured,” according to a report going before city council on Wednesday.

A Community Safety and Well-being Plan is needed to coordinate the efforts by the City of Prince George, Prince George RCMP, Northern Health, BC Housing, other provincial agencies and local service provider agencies, the report authors wrote.

“The challenges that have afflicted the City-provincial relationship with respect to housing, addiction, and mental health are long-standing and well-documented. A major issue is the absence of a comprehensive provincial plan developed in collaboration with communities,” the report authors wrote. “As a result, efforts to address issues in the City have been fractured. Consequently, they are not well coordinated when the provincial government is pursuing its policies and the City is taking action to ensure the safety and security as well as the quality of life of its residents.”

There are “a myriad of agencies and organizations” in Prince George providing services to the city’s vulnerable and at-risk population, but “Most of these efforts, however, are siloed and there is little interoperability among them that would increase their efficiency and impact,” the report authors wrote.

“In the absence of a blueprint, initiatives will continue to be designed and implemented in silos. This is a major reason that efforts to date have not been successful,” The report authors wrote.

The authors highlighted a lack of coordination between the RCMP and City of Prince George bylaw officers, a lack of coordination between the city’s outreach coordinators and outreach workers from other community service agencies, a lack of communication between the RCMP and frontline service agencies, lack of communication between the City of Prince George and service agencies, and downloading of provincial areas of responsibility (housing, mental health, addictions, etc.) onto the City of Prince George.

“Concerns were expressed by staff in frontline service delivery organizations that City Hall staff often do not consult with them or access their expertise in initiating projects to address the challenges in the community,” the authors wrote. “Several staff commented that they often first learned of specific initiatives in the newspaper. This approach is not likely to produce significant change and does not maximize the expertise and experience of community stakeholders.”

Prince George RCMP and Prince George Fire Rescue Service members are increasingly spending their time addressing mental health calls and overdose-related medical calls, the authors noted.

“The (RCMP) detachment is experiencing increased calls for service, many of which are not police matters, e.g., mental health calls where there is very limited potential for violence. The detachment currently responds to a high number of mental-health related calls,” the report authors wrote. “While beyond the scope of this study, it appears that the municipality is subsidizing the lack of provincial resources in the community, e.g., many of the calls attended by the Fire & Rescue service are medically related.”

Simon Fraser University professor of criminology and consultant Curt Taylor, along with professors Eli Sopow from University Canada West and Joshua Murphy of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, were hired by the City of Prince George this year to conduct a review of the resources and service levels at the Prince George RCMP detachment. City council will receive the report during a committee of the whole meeting planned for Wednesday afternoon.

While the authors’ report was focused on the Prince George RCMP, any solutions to the issues facing the city can’t fall on the police alone, they wrote.

“The challenges facing Prince George are significant and will require a collective effort to address and to take advantage of the opportunities that exist to effectively meet them,” the report authors wrote. “The RCMP in Prince George cannot assume responsibility for addressing all the challenges facing the community but can be an active, dynamic partner in collaborative problem-solving endeavours while at the same time working to ensure the safety of the community.”

In an additional report to city council, city director of public safety Adam Davey wrote that developing a Community Safety and Well-being Plan would be a multi-year process.

"This is a major undertaking requiring additional resources above those recommended in the report. Administration recommends that Council consider initiating a CSWB planning process during the upcoming Council strategic planning process," Davey wrote. "Given the City’s budgetary constraints, administration is recommending flattening out enhancements over a 5-year horizon. If appropriately resourced, a planning process could be initiated in 2023 with a framework for Council consideration beginning with budget 2024."