Victoria Police’s union says they are seriously concerned about escalating violence that has been taking place in the city.
The concerns come after an officer was allegedly threatened by a man brandishing a metal pipe outside police headquarters less than a week ago.
The union has also raised concerns over property damage, weapons seizures, and violent crimes that have taken place near homeless encampments and temporary housing facilities.
“The level of violence in general has increased and a number of citizens have been speaking to the media about how they don’t feel safe in our community,” said VCPU vice president Matt Waterman.
“I think it’s time for a change. These policies haven’t been working. Let’s find something different to do…I would prefer that our elected officials recognize there is more to this than putting someone in housing.”
The union won’t recommend a solution but agrees that finding housing may help. The union also believes that increased resources and policies are needed.
Victoria’s mayor agrees police are in a tough spot but says ending 24/7 camping right away is not the solution.
She also pushed back against the idea that those in encampments are the reason behind the uptick.
“Our police officers are working really hard in incredibly difficult circumstances,” said Mayor Lisa Helps.
“There are people who are praying on the vulnerable people and those people are the ones the police are worried about. They are not worried about people who are living in tents trying to live and make ends meet…we need things like safe supply…we need things like more affordable housing. Those systemic programs will help to solve these issues.”
The union cites statistics that show in a three-month period at the end of 2020, there was a 250 per cent increase in violence in Beacon Hill Park — eight incidents in 2019 versus 28 in 2020.
They also point to an increase from one violent incident in Central Park in 2019 to 15 in 2020 as well as increased calls for service to Hollywood Park of over 300 per cent.
The mayor and advocates, however, say those experiencing homelessness are being targeted and finding homes is the best solution.
“Parks are not homes and tents are not homes, the pathway out of 24/7 shelter is making sure everyone who is living in the park now is offered an indoor space. Once all of those offers have been made, we will go back to camping overnight if people have a need for shelter.”
She hopes the city will meet its deadline to get everyone out of parks by the end of the month.
The union says they are hearing reports that people are not calling in crimes due to the frequency and says the public needs to notify their city representatives on the severity of the situation.
Advocates say the overall danger from encampments is still low and that the city is still very safe.
“Overall folks who are living without homes, face a lot more violence on a day-to-day basis,” said Daniel Jackson, Together Against Poverty society’s legal advocate.
“I don’t think there is any real danger for most folks walking through the park. Victoria is safer than it has been in recent years and it started from a very safe place.”
The union says they are worried housing will not be enough to end this current uptick.