The Province, in co-operation with British Columbia’s Urban Mayors’ Caucus (BCUMC), has hired two experts to investigate and report on prolific offenders and random violent attacks, and the necessary actions.
In April, B.C.’s urban mayors sent detailed information to the Attorney General and Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General indicating that despite overall decreases in provincial and community crime rates, shifting crime patterns during the pandemic were particularly hurting downtown retail areas. This letter followed advocacy by the mayors of Terrace, Trail, Quesnel and some other smaller rural communities similarly affected. Meetings with local and provincial police have confirmed these trends and pointed to a separate issue of random violent attacks in some centres.
“Simply because we are compassionate, concerned and taking action on mental health and addiction issues does not mean that we have to accept criminal behaviour, vandalism or violence in our communities,” said David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing. “We all have to live together, and recovery from the pandemic for hard-hit retailers and downtowns through safety and accessibility for everyone is part of ensuring British Columbia remains one of the best places in the world to live. We agree with the mayors that creative solutions within our authority are needed. Together, we’ve identified and hired the experts in policing and mental health needed to investigate these trends, identify solutions and help us implement them.”
This investigation and recommendation structure is similar to actions taken by the province to address money-laundering, as well as the financial crisis at ICBC, which respectively resulted in significant and ongoing reforms that dramatically reduced money laundering activities in B.C. casinos, and some of the lowest car insurance rates and best benefits in Canada.
“The B.C. Urban Mayors’ Caucus identified mental health, substance use and treatment as one of the most critical issues facing our communities. We know that some, not all, prolific offenders experience mental-health and substance-use challenges and for these individuals a path to care and treatment is needed to address the root cause of the problem,” said Lisa Helps, mayor of Victoria and co-chair of BCUMC. “It will be through courageous leadership and the continued co-operation of all levels of government that solutions of adequate care and consequences will address prolific-offender crime in our cities. This investigation is an important first step, and we are encouraged about the path today’s announcement puts us on.”
The investigation and recommendations will be completed by two people: Doug LePard, former Vancouver Police Department deputy chief and former Metro Vancouver Transit police chief, who has authored several reports and sets of recommendations related to issues of crime and police response; and Amanda Butler, a health researcher and criminologist whose specialities include mental health, substance-use disorders, criminal justice systems and prison health.
“Keeping people safe is a top priority of our government,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “We stand with all victims of crimes, and we share British Columbians’ concern and frustration with prolific offenders. We welcome the expert investigation led by Doug LePard and Dr. Amanda Butler, and we hope its findings will provide us with additional tools to protect communities and connect repeat offenders with the help they need.”
“As the mayors of B.C.’s large urban cities, we are at ground zero of hearing the frustration and seeing the consequential impacts that repeat property offenders are having on our communities, local businesses and residents’ sense of safety,” said Colin Basran, mayor of Kelowna and co-chair of BCUMC. “We are pleased to see the quick action by the Province in responding to the caucus’s concerns. We are hopeful that the work of this report will be a catalyst for improved integration of health and justice, and offer meaningful solutions that builds up the public’s confidence in the administration of justice.”
A written report with recommendations will be prepared as part of the investigation and released publicly in early fall. The experts have been advised that if they find opportunities that do not need to wait for a final report, they should advise government so action can be taken earlier in the process.
Two backgrounders follow.