A graph showing the number of calls for service by category that was shown as part of Police Chief Del Manak’s second-quarter presentation to city council. (VicPD) Victoria Police Chief Del Manak presented Victoria City Council with the second-quarter report on Thursday. (Black Press Media file photo)

Council questions Victoria police chief over communications, crime trends

Coun. Ben Isitt ‘not keen’ on funding VicPD communication department

Victoria Police Chief Del Manak expressed concerns about an increasing trend in property crime and assaults, but that data is mixed spurring questions for Victoria council.

Manak presented VicPD’s second-quarter report to council on Sept. 3, using information gathered from April 1 to June 30. He noted an increase in property crime, along with a more than 100 per cent increase in robbery and extortion calls and an increase in calls regarding threats to personal safety under ‘emerging trends.’

The data also shows the number of calls for service relating to social order and violence are the lowest they’ve been in the past year.

A graph showing the number of calls for service by category that was shown as part of Police Chief Del Manak’s second quarter presentation to city council. (VicPD)

Coun. Jeremy Loveday asked Manak to help him understand the “discrepancies” in public understanding and messaging from the department when it came to interpreting the data.

READ ALSO: Most criminal activity calls down in first half of 2020

During the second quarter of 2020, there were 555 calls for service for violent crime, a decrease from the 744 in the first three months of the year. Calls for service relating to social order dropped from 2,800 in the first quarter to 2,257 in the second quarter.

Manak said that is because of the broad range of what ‘violent crimes’ covers, noting assaults were up by five per cent and robberies and extortions were up by 107 per cent.

“Overall, although [the number of violent calls] decreased, the areas that matter to the police department that are impacting public safety during quarter two … there was a significant increase in those type of calls within that,” said Manak.

When Loveday asked what type of calls were “violent but not violent enough to be notable,” Manak could not answer and said he would ask a staff member for the information. Loveday asked why the data was “telling a different story” from what was being portrayed by department communications and public perception because “it’s actually the lowest it’s been in a year.”

Manak said the information did not reflect what was currently happening in the city, as it was for the second quarter and we are now in the third quarter. Loveday said more and better data was needed.

READ ALSO: Petition calls for suspension of Victoria councillor Ben Isitt

Manak highlighted a number of community engagement initiatives such as rebranding and relaunching the Open VicPD app and shifting to “virtual news conferences.”

During the meeting, Coun. Ben Isitt sought data to back recent comments Manak made through the media about members of the unhoused community moving to Victoria from across the country. Manak said the information was anecdotal but that the conversations are happening frequently enough for him to be confident.

Isitt said he had broader concerns and was “not very keen” on funding VicPD’s communication department.

Coun. Geoff Young said Isitt’s comments were a “good example of why the province has not put the municipality in charge of police forces.”

Manak also said he would post VicPD’s social media policy on the department website after Coun. Sarah Potts raised concerns she heard from the community about comments being deleted.

To read VicPD’s second quarter report visit vicpd.ca/open-vicpd/quarterly-reports/2020-q2/.


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