'The sustainability of Victoria is at stake': Downtown stakeholders ask city to increase police budget

A sharp rise in crime in Victoria’s downtown core has stakeholders saying that public safety is in crisis.

“We really need to see more resources going towards our frontline police to help deal with some of the issues that we’re faced with,” said Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA).

The DVBA, along with the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Destination Greater Victoria, Our Place Society and the Conservatory of Music, has penned a letter to City Hall. It’s asking the city council to approve the hiring of six new police officers and four civilians before it’s too late.

“If we don’t get a handle on this, the sustainability of Victoria is at stake,” said Jane Butler McGregor, CEO of the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Victoria Police Department Chief Del Manak is asking for a seven per cent increase to his department’s budget, or $4.1 million more than the current year.

“It really is a question for council to decide on what sort of investment do they want to make in public safety,” said Manak. “This is one of their core responsibilities, to keep their citizens safe.”

The city budget will be approved in the new year. Currently, council is debating what increases should be sent out for public engagement, to be added to that budget for approval.

“I don’t see any problem when we get to budget debate in the new year with these resources being approved,” said Lisa Helps, Victoria’s mayor.

The mayor, who also co-chairs the Victoria Police Board, says Victoria is a safe city but admits there has been an increase in violent crimes. She wants to see the increases approved.

“I certainly support them; I support the work that Vic PD does,” said Helps. “They are in very difficult circumstances, as are police departments in every city in this province.”

Our Place Society has signed the letter as well.

“We have seen a rise in violence on our streets and disorder,” said Julian Daly, the society’s CEO.

Although many homeless individuals have been housed through the province’s purchases of hotels, some people aren’t able to be housed in those hotels, either because they have caused problems and been removed or they don’t want to live by the facilities’ rules. That puts them back on the streets, often to rely on crime for survival.

“The police actually, in reality, day to day here, we see them helping and keep people who are some of the most vulnerable citizens – homeless folk on the street – safe,” said Daly. “Safe particularly from the criminals who do prey on them.”