Victoria police taking too long to respond to calls for help

WatchVictoria Police are consistently failing to meet response time targets for the most urgent calls, including life-threatening ones. Tess van Straaten reports.

We count on police to keep us safe but Victoria police are failing to meet critical response time targets.

“For the most urgent emergency calls, we are not meeting the standards we set,” says Chief Del Manak of the Victoria Police Department.

Victoria Police has missed its response time targets for the first three quarters of the year in both Victoria and Esquimalt in the three most urgent call categories.

For priority one or life-threatening calls, VicPD expects officers to respond in under seven minutes, 95 per cent of the time.

For priority two calls it’s 12 minutes or less and it’s within 40 minutes for priority three calls, 90 per cent of the time.

“We just don’t have enough officers for the volume of work we have and the complexity is so high,” Chief Manak says. “There’s a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety they have to deal with because the volume of calls coming in, it’s very, very difficult for them to keep up.”

But an increasing number of calls — like Monday’s four-hour standoff at the Congregation Emanu-El Synagogue in downtown Victoria — are mental health calls that take a lot of time and tie up valuable resources.

“Mental health, poverty homelessness, addictions — those aren’t crimes,” says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “That’s not what police should be doing. And that’s where we really need to come together as a community to find the health supports and housing supports.”

To try and ease the pressure on police, the force is asking for four special municipal constables to help with administrative tasks to free up officers for the front lines.

The Victoria & Esquimalt Police Board is also hoping the province will over-rule Victoria and Esquimalt Councils’ refusal to hire additional officers last year.

But in the meantime, Chief Manak says for the most urgent calls, police will be there.

“If you’re calling 911 for a serious emergency, I would be confident that the police will be showing up in a timely manner.”

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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