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United for a Safer B.C.

BACKGROUNDER: INITIAL FUNDING COMMITMENTS & DEFINITIONS

Total Initial Operating & Capital – $520 million over 3 years

Note: These forecasts are preliminary estimates. Actual funding requirements would be planned and finalized in consultation with police agency partners.

Backgrounder: Better Support for Police

Crime on the rise: After declining through much of the 2000s and early 2010s, crime is now increasing significantly in B.C., particularly violent crime. According to the NDP government’s own report, violent crimes in B.C. are at the highest level in a decade, with 80,942 violent offences recorded in 2021, or 15.5 per 1,000 population — a 42 per cent increase in five years from the rate of 10.9 per 1,000 population recorded in 2017.

The latest Statistics Canada data released in July, indicate that after decreasing to a record low in 2016, B.C.’s Violent Crime Severity Index grew between 2017 and 2022 to its highest level since 2010. And while this post-pandemic increase in violent crime is a national trend, B.C.’s violent crime index increased at a rate of almost twice the national average (35 per cent versus 20 per cent).

More police, fewer vacancies: According to a Government of Canada Sessional Paper 8555-441-1036, released in January, the RCMP has 5,778 funded contract police positions in B.C. and 460 vacancies, a “hard” vacancy rate of 8 per cent, representing more than half of the 813 RCMP contract policing vacancies in Canada. This does not include the even greater number of “soft vacancies” from officers on extended leave due to long-term sickness or other reasons. The NDP announced $230 million over three years in 2022 to fill the RCMP’s 277 vacant provincial policing positions, but that will only address just over half of the existing vacancies. The Safer B.C. plan will invest an additional $195 million to ensure 500 vacant provincial policing positions are filled.

Body-worn cameras for all police: Body-worn cameras provide accountability and protection for the police and the public alike, yet the NDP government has not provided funding to enable their deployment to all officers engaging with the public. In the absence of dedicated funding, body-worn cameras also represent a significant downloaded cost to local governments.

The National Police Federation notes that the annual operating cost of cameras is much larger than the initial capital purchase, due to costs associated with data management and analysis, and estimates equipping the RCMP’s 13,000-plus contract-policing members nationally could cost $50 million in capital and $100 million in annual operating costs.

Faster equipment approvals: Work with the RCMP to accelerate the approval process for local communities wanting to acquire new or less lethal equipment alternatives such as Taser, bean-bag or net guns.

Train RCMP in B.C. to help fill vacancies: Work with the federal government to allow basic training for RCMP officers to take place at the Pacific Region Training Centre in the Fraser Valley, as a supplement to the RCMP Training Academy in Regina, so that B.C. recruits stay here. The “depot” in Regina trains approximately 1,300 cadets per year nationally. Based on B.C.’s share of the population, this total represents only 150 cadets per year for B.C., not enough to offset current vacancies and retirements.

Dedicated hate crime team: In its March 2023 report, the BC Human Rights Commission reported a significant increase in incidents of hate during the Covid-19 pandemic and noted that hate crimes are often significantly underreported due in part to lack of data, yet the NDP has not acted on the recommendations. The VPD reports hate crimes in 2022 were up 58 per cent over pre-pandemic averages, and anti-Asian hate crimes were up 522 per cent. A new dedicated hate crime team will advance the Commission’s recommendations for additional police resources to address hate incidents.

Backgrounder: Prosecuting Offenders

Crack down on repeat offenders and bail offenders: The NDP’s catch-and-release approach to repeat offenders is jeopardizing the safety of British Columbians. According to a letter from the B.C. Urban Mayors’ Council, 204 prolific offenders in 10 of the province’s largest cities accounted for 11,648 negative police contacts. The files generated by these repeat offenders place a significant strain on police resources, contributing to increased workload and worse outcomes: the Council’s analysis of BC Prosecution Service annual reports from 2016/17 to 2020/21 indicates a 75 per cent increase in the rate of no-charge assessments, from 12 per cent of all files reviewed, to 21 per cent.

The NDP’s dismal record on repeat offenders has been exacerbated by new federal bail reforms introduced in 2019, which have reduced the ability of police to enforce bail conditions. Prior to these changes, violations of bail conditions typically resulted in detention. Now, the typical response is often more bail. It’s time to ensure stricter consequences for repeat offenders.

Better tools for prosecutors to secure convictions: Make sure the BC Prosecution Service has the resources and tools it needs to do its job as effectively as possible, including better information about criminals in other jurisdictions. Prioritize upgrading the BC Prosecution Service’s outdated IT system to allow for more seamless communications with police and increase the Crown’s ability to see charges and criminal histories from other provinces. And act on the Canadian Association of Crown Counsel’s call for a modernized national online criminal justice information system that contains data on all accused persons across Canada.

A rehabilitation and recovery-oriented system of care in corrections: Take a compassionate approach to break the cycle of catch and release, by addressing the underlying causes of anti-social behaviour. In concert with BC United’s comprehensive Better is Possible mental health strategy, we will deliver a truly rehabilitative corrections system that engages accused persons, and those sentenced to custody in a more restorative justice system. This includes: investing in addiction treatment units within correctional facilities, to help improve treatment for inmates and life outcomes after they have completed their sentences; providing enhanced services for individuals with mental health, addictions, behavioural health issues, and undiagnosed learning disabilities; and providing comprehensive treatment and recovery programs, vocational training, and support services people need to be able to disentangle from the justice system and stay crime-free.

A 2021 Simon Fraser University study found that one-third of all inmates in B.C. prisons suffered from co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders in 2017, a rate that more than doubled from 15 per cent in 2009. The prevalence of methamphetamine use disorder increased nearly fivefold, from 6 per cent to 29 per cent, and heroin use disorder increased from 11 per cent to 26 per cent.

Moreover, the 2018 BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel report found that 66 per cent of British Columbians who died of an illicit drug overdose had BC Corrections involvement at some time in their lives, and 25 per cent died while under community corrections supervision or within 1 year of release from a correctional facility.

BACKGROUNDER: GET DRUGS, ORGANIZED CRIME AND GANGS OFF OUR STREETS

An evidence-based approach to drug treatment and decriminalization: The NDP’s reckless experiment in decriminalization of drug possession clearly isn’t working. Despite decriminalization taking effect January 31, B.C.’s death rate from illicit drug use in the first half of 2023 increased to 1,228 deaths provincewide, or 45.5 per 100,000 population, yet another record high.

In particular, the NDP selectively imposed decriminalization of drug possession alone, without adopting any of the other necessary and complementary controls that constitute the highly effective Portugal model of drug treatment. Harm reduction without treatment and recovery is an incomplete strategy. Necessary guardrails include treatment and recovery measures as committed by the BC United Party under its Better is Possible mental health and addictions strategy.

As Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord wrote in July 2023, “It is evident in the early evaluation that our communities are currently not experiencing the desired outcome from this policy change… A whole-system approach involves creating immediate evidenced-based addiction treatment and concurrent mental health crisis intervention and support. This includes the necessity for more funding for evidence-based addiction treatment.”

Ban on open drug use in parks, playgrounds and beaches: In response to the pressing issue of public safety, numerous communities across B.C. have taken it upon themselves to address concerns independently by implementing bylaws to provide law enforcement with the necessary tools to combat open drug use in public spaces frequented by children. However, rather than supporting these local community efforts, the NDP, through health authorities, has pushed back against these efforts. BC United will immediately pass province-wide legislation to ban the open use of drugs in public places like parks, beaches, and playgrounds.

Stronger enforcement of drug importing and manufacturing: Increase enforcement and strengthen prosecution policies for serious drug offences like trafficking, importing and exporting, and production — in particular, reduce the ratio of serious drug incidents to charges which is only 4:1 under the NDP, compared to nearly 1:1 in Alberta.