Policing and crime have been at the forefront of news in P.G. again and what to do about it. First off, the city is growing, and we have a large population in and around Prince George with new housing and apartment developments being built all over the city and there is still a shortage of housing available in the city. Along with this development comes crime and an increase of a transient population which is taxing an already stretched police force.
The unfortunate thing is that the size of the detachment has not changed in P.G. in years and has stayed at around 128 officers that patrol the city and surrounding area and, like all other detachments whether they be city or RCMP, they have a fixed budget set forth by the city, which we pay into with our taxes. I have always been a proponent of increasing the policing budget to increase the number of officers but the city has to justify that cost and there is only so much money to go around.
I would like to see an increase of 15 officers, which does not seem like a lot but this is a huge amount of officers to ask for, especially in wages and benefits, with the cost potentially being $2-3 million, which would increase our taxes. With that being said, there are things that can be done to offset the cost by hiring two or three officers to do training here in P.G., instead of sending officers to the Lower Mainland for training. Hiring community police officers who would investigate minor crimes would free up regular members for other duties. If more officers were hired, there could be a full-time dedicated crime reduction unit that initially be costly but would pay for itself quickly as other cities that have implemented this have seen a reduction in overall crimes, saving them money in the long run.
Finally, there is the city bylaw services, which have been the butt of many jokes due to the non-existence of bylaw enforcement. The city has always had a policy of education over enforcement but now I think it focused more on enforcement over education. Nobody likes getting fines and paying them but those fines stay in the city coffers. If the city were to enforce fines on even a quarter of the bylaws, there would be potentially a net gain. Unfortunately, that would mean the city would have to hire more people and find a way to do so in a tight budget. Let’s be honest – the city hasn’t been very fiscal of late, with mismanagement and poor decisions leaving us taxpayers holding the bag on their bad decisions.