Sidney, North Saanich pull out of regional crime unit

Local RCMP suggests a smaller, local crime prevention unit

Citing a low use-to-cost benefit, Sidney and North Saanich have pulled out of the regional crime unit and are looking into better use of local RCMP resources to prevent crime.

Both municipalities cut their annual contributions to the unit in their respective 2013 budgets, saving an estimated $55,000 in Sidney and $44,000 in North Saanich. The mayors of both communities said they did not see the benefit of being a part of the regional initiative when there have been few incidents requiring the unit.

Alice Finall, mayor of North Saanich, said both communities decided to withdraw from the unit after speaking with Staff Sergeant Dennis O’Gorman of the Sidney/North Saanich RCMP. Victoria, she added, dropped out after only one year after the unit was created in 2008. Today, the unit has participation from Saanich and Central Saanich, West Shore RCMP and the provincial RCMP.

“Our decision was based on a recommendation from staff on a budget issue,” she said. “There were not a lot of action calls for us or for Sidney. This was the consideration for both towns — a significant expenditure each year with low use.”

Finall said in the five years North Saanich has been a participant in the regional crime unit, they’ve only had four or five incidents involving the unit. Sidney, said its mayor, has had only one.

Sidney mayor Larry Cross said the ongoing cost of policing to the town is a concern. Sidney is facing an additional $114,000 this year for an additional RCMP officer and negotiated wage increases.

O’Gorman, who sits on a sub committee of the regional crime unit, said they have been looking into different funding models as a result of Sidney and North Saanich’s withdrawal. A report on a budget model, he continued, will be presented to area police chiefs and municipal councils once it’s complete.

Both Finall and Cross said if a lower-cost option presents itself, their councils would reconsider their involvement.

O’Gorman said he’s now looking into creating a small, local crime reduction initiative. He said it would use existing officers and focus on prolific offenders from Sidney and North Saanich. While still at the discussion level, O’Gorman said such a unit would monitor offenders and work with the justice and parole systems and various provincial ministries to prevent crime.

“We have very few people (in Sidney and North Saanich) that are out there doing the crime,” O’Gorman said. “If we focus on those people, then it can help maintain low crime levels.”

Finall said that local focus would have an impact and thinks it’s a good idea.