WATCH: Would a regional police force for Greater Victoria be better for public safety or more costly for taxpayers? Tess van Straaten reports.
There’s the Victoria Police Department, Saanich police, Oak Bay police and Central Saanich Police — and those are just the municipal forces.
There are also three RCMP — West Shore, Sooke and Sidney/North Saanich — for a total of seven different police departments in Greater Victoria.
VicPD, who police the downtown core, say an unfair burden falls on them.
“Our officers are doing the lion’s share of the work and we’re policing a much, much larger population than who’s paying tax,” says Chief Del Manak of the Victoria Police Department.
Victoria Council is now asking the province to create a regional police force to make things more efficient.
But some municipalities are worried it could cost their taxpayers more, or impact service levels.
“We have incredibly high levels of service, we have low crime rates as a result so that serves our needs very well,” says Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch. “Can we continue that with an integrated model? That would be the big question we would have.”
The last time the province stepped in — forcing Victoria and Esquimalt to amalgamate in 2003 and promising to bring in other communities — it didn’t work out very well.
“Fast forward 16 years later and there is no regional police force and Victoria and Esquimalt are in this amalgamation that has significant challenges,” explains Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth declined an on-camera interview but he says he’s committed to working with local governments to further integrate law enforcement in Greater Victoria — or explore a regional force.
But Farnworth says any change to policing is a decision for the municipalities involved, and he wants them to work together and come up with a proposal.
“The notion of us working together to come up with a plan is essentially what we’re doing right now,” says Murdoch.
Many services, like major crimes investigation and traffic control, are already integrated and municipalities in the process of working out a governance plan.
But both Victoria and Esquimalt say a single, regional force — or at least one for the four core municipalities — would be better for public safety.