Victoria police says it has disbanded a unit focused on prolific offenders, with likely more changes needed to maintain what it calls basic levels of service.

In a release Wednesday morning, VicPD said effective June 1, the Crime Reduction Unit is disbanded, a unit that conducted extensive drug and property crime-related investigations.

“My preference is to not reallocate these positions and continue providing the full range of policing services that our citizens expect,” Victoria Police Chief Del Manak said in a written statement.

“However, citizens expect that when they call 911, an officer will arrive to help them quickly.  Without this change and further changes, VicPD cannot maintain that basic level of service.”

VicPD said Wednesday it has more than 30 police officers not deployable for frontline patrols for a variety of reasons, including physical and psychological injuries, parental leave, and recruit training.

It says it has created “major challenges in ensuring adequate deployment of frontline resources” to take calls.

According to VicPD, there were 46 calls Tuesday night waiting to be assigned to officers, but all of them were responding to earlier calls.

A budget dispute flared between the city and the police force when Victoria council moved ahead with plans to limit the VicPD budget increase for 2019.

While police argued the cost of policing continues to go up, councillors voted to deny the department’s request for a budget increase of 6.6 per cent and instead, limit the hike to 3.4 per cent (inflation plus one per cent).

In January, the province ordered six new officers to be hired at VicPD, which also serves Esquimalt.

Then in March, council voted on a compromise that wouldn’t result in job cuts.

But a request for new officers — in addition to the six the province ordered to be hired — was taken off the table.

Earlier this month, Victoria police said budget cuts left a shortfall of over $78,000 dollars needed to cover the $122,000 cost of policing Canada Day celebrations.

Councillors voted to approve $135,000 for policing of public events and voted down a motion to ask the military to fund the bill for events such as Remembrance Day.

VicPD says there are more changes that will happen to address demands.

It says those will be outlined in its Transformation Report to be released in July at a meeting of Victoria and Esquimalt Police.

CHEK