WATCH: Victoria and Esquimalt are clashing over plans to fund the hiring of six new police officers. VicPD wants to hire six new officers and got the green-light from Victoria council last month but Esquimalt council put a halt to the plan. Isabelle Raghem reports.
Victoria police responded to close to 13,000 calls in the last quarter, and officials say the pressure on officers is growing.
“In Victoria, there are calls on hold and in Esquimalt, there are more serious crimes that are being committed that take longer to investigate,” says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
That’s why the city’s police chief is asking for an $870,000 dollar budget increase for more staff.
Victoria Police Chief Del Manak says the ongoing opioid crisis along with a growing population are taking a toll.
“In order to provide adequate and effective policing for both the city and the township [of Esquimalt] the determination was that we needed six officers and two civilian staff,” says Manak.
Last month, Victoria city council approved the request from VicPD’s for the increase, for a little over $547,000, ? 85 per cent of the police budget increase.
But Esquimalt council, asked to cover 15 per cent of the request, or $94,374, voted 4-3 against it.
“Statistics and information that the police has given us show that we are getting good value, we are getting good policing at this point and so council is also saying well based on the statistics we’re seeing, in your quarterly reports, we don’t feel we need more officers,” says Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.
Esquimalt was also worried that the additional officers would be floating with none specifically dedicated to the township, which only has about a tenth of Victoria’s call volume.
The issue has been sent to mediation.
“If the Victoria police department doesn’t get this funding then I’ll have to make some tough decisions that I’ll recommend to the police board as to what areas will be cut in service in order to enhance our front lines,” says Manak.
The dispute resolution process will begin on Monday, Feb. 19.