Review to probe random attacks and how to curb prolific offenders

As random attacks on strangers pile up and businesses fall prey to break-in after break-in, the province has appointed two experts to lead a review to find solutions to both issues.

For months, John Clerides, the owner of Marquis Wine Cellars in Vancouver’s West End, has raised the alarm on increasing crime. He told CTV News in 40 years, he’s never seen it this bad. Clerides counted off more than half a dozen businesses impacted on his block alone.

“This is horrific,” he said. “Break-ins, windows smashed, smash and grabs … This is off the charts.”

Attorney General David Eby announced Thursday that former Vancouver Police Department deputy chief Doug LePard and Dr. Amanda Butler – a health researcher and criminologist – will consult with stakeholders and explore possible solutions to both repeat offenders and stranger attacks. Some of the issues to be examined include real-time electronic monitoring and compulsory social supports.

"Simply because we are compassionate and concerned and taking action on mental health and addiction issues does not mean that British Columbians have to resort to criminal behavior, vandalism or violence in our communities," Eby said at a news conference.

In April, urban mayors raised the issue of crime in their downtown cores. A subsequent review found a small group of repeat offenders is behind most of the property crime in B.C.'s largest cities. Stranger attacks are considered a separate issue.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is co-chair of B.C.'s Urban Mayors Caucus.

"We were very surprised to see that in our 13 communities, 200 people had 11,000 police interactions in one year," said Helps.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, the other co-chair, acknowledged that prolific offenders may not need harsher punishment, but support.

"Our residents and business owners and our RCMP are frustrated with just, again, the kind of catch-and-release nature of this entire cycle," Basran added.

With an average of four unprovoked stranger assaults every day in Vancouver alone, the opposition is accusing the government of not moving fast enough. Critic Todd Stone pointed out by the time the review is done, hundreds more may fall victim to an attack.

“Apparently, the best the NDP government could come up with is a report that will take 120 days or four months to be finished," Stone told reporters at the legislature.

Eby said if solutions are found before the final report is issued, he'll take action. The report is expected to be released publicly in early fall.