The B.C. government has hired a pair of experts to investigate and offer solutions to the escalation of random violent attacks and other crimes committed by prolific offenders in urban centres.
The investigation will be headed up by former Vancouver Police Department deputy chief Doug LePard as well as health researcher and criminologist Amanda Butler, the province announced Thursday.
The experts will report back to the province in 120 days and will offer recommendations on how to curb crime, which will be released in early fall.
“We’ve already seen progress on getting people the supports they need,” said B.C. Attorney General David Eby. “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.”
The report comes after B.C.’s Urban Mayors’ Caucus, which represents 13 communities, wrote to Eby in April urging the government to take action to address offenders who are repeatedly arrested and released. The caucus pointed to police data showing most offences are committed by a small number of prolific criminals.
“What we saw, I think surprised even us,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, co-chair of the mayors’ caucus. “In our 13 communities, 200 people had 11,000 police interactions in one year. That is obviously a significant issue, and that is why we’re here today.”
The government has asked the two experts leading the investigation to report back earlier than fall if they have solutions they can implement sooner.
“We know this shift in crime patterns is having an effect on peoples’ feelings of safety,” said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth. “My ministry will be working with them to provide all necessary support.”
The investigation will look separately into chronic property crime and violent offences and identify possible solutions that exist within provincial authority.
It will specifically explore proposals already before the government including possible real-time electronic monitoring of chronic offenders under release conditions, as well as connecting offenders with social supports or programs through either first responders or the courts “to interrupts the cycle of offending or the escalation of offending.”
The experts will also look into whether complex care housing and mental health hospital beds could help address prolific crime.
The caucus is made up of the mayors of 13 communities: Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, New Westminster, Prince George, Richmond, Saanich, Surrey, Vancouver and Victoria.