A recently released budget allocation report from the Victoria and Esquimalt police departments shows how the cities police budget will be broken down in the coming years, but some are questioning the decision to allocate funds to provide Esquimalt with five new police officers.
“Complete surprise that we ended up with five extra officers,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins. “And given the significance of that, we’d like to see what can be done about that.”
The report, commissioned by the Solicitor General, states that there are already too many police officers working in Esquimalt.
The two police departments amalgamated in 2002, but each have their own funding allocations and seemingly very different responsibilities.
The crime rate is decreasing in Esquimalt, while in neighbouring Victoria, the demand for policing is growing.
According to the Victoria Police Department, in 2019, 13,494 crimes were reported in Victoria and only 980 in Esquimalt.
Dispatch Calls for Service measures the number of times police actually respond to calls from the public and it includes all incident types, criminal and non-criminal.
In 2019, Victoria Police officers attended 34,853 calls from the public in Victoria, compared with 3,379 in Esquimalt.
That’s why Esquimalt’s mayor said her municipality should pay less.
“We just don’t have the issues that downtown Victoria has,” said Desjardins.
The Solicitor General report also confirms this, stating that Esquimalt should pay less for the policing costs it shares with Victoria.
The new report means Esquimalt will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars less for policing over the next several years.
Victoria’s mayor says it’s the right decision.
“I think we all agree that the new formula is fair,” said Victoria Police Board chair and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “And so over the next few years, there will be a shift in funding.”
But Esquimalt wants the changes now.
“For the community that is spending over $8 million on policing, a million dollars is at least a 3 per cent tax increase,” Desjardins said. “That is a significant amount of money.”
Both of the mayors say it may take some time to decide when and where the five extra police officers will be redeployed.