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Council's two-pronged approach to crime: Mayor’s committee and town hall meeting can’t fix broken system

Spending nearly 40 per cent of city's budget on policing completely unsustainable
This is the view of Moccasin Flats from the top edge of the embankment along Upper Patricia Boulevard.

Mayor Simon Yu has struck a public committee, with three members from council - Brian Skakun, Trudy Klassen and Ron Polillo – and yet-to-be-named community members whose experience lies in First Nation relations, as well as corrections, with insight into what leads to repeat offenders. 

The committee will take aim at the downtown core, including the light industrial area east of Queensway. While downtown crime may be an abstract to those up in College Heights, or in North Nechako, it’s a daily occurrence for us, whose office is at the end of Fourth Avenue, with our windows facing the Moccasin Flats encampment.

Meanwhile, a motion passed during the April 22 council meeting, introduced by Councilor Sampson and co-signed by Councilors Ramsey and Bennett proposes an open house town hall meeting in May to hear the concerns of community members and stakeholders, along with a $20,000 budget from council’s contingency fund for a venue, A/V equipment, a facilitator and advertising. 

 According to Mayor Yu, during the April 8 council meeting, “We spent 37.1 per cent of our $180 million capital expenditure budget on public safety (policing) and it’s almost unsustainable.” 

You don’t say?

Spending nearly 40 per cent of our budget on policing is completely unsustainable, especially when a system that is beyond our control processes offenders and sets them free to keep on keeping on. Myriad examples exist where people are detained, with multiple alleged offences, only to be turned loose for months on end.

While the RCMP “lab tests” their drug findings after traffic stops and/or warrant executions, results from lab testing can take upwards of eight to 10 months.

In short, you get caught with enough fentanyl to kill every person within two square kilometers, you’re not even charged with anything for several months, until the police get lab results back.

 If you’re caught with other contraband, including guns, ammunition and body armour, the Crown doesn’t want to “unbundle” those potential charges, meaning the accused are back on the street, for months on end, awaiting lab results that could take the better part of a year.

 This isn’t a critique of the police. They’re only processing offenders based upon case law, with the desired intention of prosecution. Meanwhile, those awaiting trial are free to continue their poisonous, criminal enterprises.  

We’re in the midst of trading the charter rights of offenders, often with prior convictions, for the safety and well-being of our communities. 

 Curtis Armstrong is the publisher of the Prince George Citizen