Victoria police to deploy extra officers at Beacon Hill Park, Burnside Gorge

Victoria police to deploy extra officers at Beacon Hill Park, Burnside Gorge
File photo/CHEK
Tents are seen near the Beacon Hill Park sign in Victoria.

Victoria police say extra officers will be deployed to the Burnside Gorge and Beacon Hill Park areas next month after community members voiced their concerns.

The initiative is scheduled to run for the month of August. Victoria police said officers will be maintaining a “consistent, high-visibility presence” in the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood as well as in and around Beacon Hill Park.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to indoor shelters closing their doors or significantly reducing their services. Many campers currently living in Beacon Hill Park say they have nowhere to go.

A petition asking the city to not allow tents in Beacon Hill Park was started by residents saying they were concerned about needles, garbage and threats in the park. A counter-petition for compassionate treatment of the homeless in the park was started this week.

Campers are also at Cecelia Ravine Park, where nearby residents say they’re facing similar problems to neighbours of Beacon Hill. The Burnside-Gorge area is also where a temporary supportive housing facility at the former Comfort Inn and Suites is located. The hotel was purchased by the province for $18.5 million and houses 90 people previously living in tents at Topaz Park or on Pandora Avenue.

“For the last number of months, we’ve been hearing lots of complaints from our citizens and our community and our business community about challenges that they’re experiencing in both these neighbourhoods,” Victoria Police Chief Del Manak said.

“We have really enhanced our service and really listened and provided the best service that we could with the resources that we have but I don’t have an endless amount of resources and I’ve got a significant budget that I’ve got to work around and have to make sure that I manage but it’s kind of come to the point where the frequency of the complaints that we’re seeing, the level of violence that is playing out on our street and in our communities is just not sitting well with the police department,” Manak said.

Manak said due to resource constraints, this initiative will be staffed by officers from across the department on special duty assignments. And there will be overtime hours, according to Manak. The cost of the initiative is estimated to be around $40,000.

“The numbers don’t lie. The communities are seeing a tremendous amount of strain, social disorder,” he said.

READ MORE: Disturbance calls up more than 80 per cent in Beacon Hill Park: Victoria Police

According to Manak, the officers will be in high visibility vests and out in foot while out in the areas and will be talking to community members. He said he has heard that some people have stopped phoning the police when they see violent incidents, so this will help with dialogue and lead to quicker response times to incidents.

“I want to always try to look at the root cause of the problem and so that’s working with our partners at the city, Island Health, BC Housing, our service providers in what we can do to make small changes that might actually help keep our community safe.”


Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!