Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond discussed crime rates and the flaws of the justice system this morning over tea and croissants with Vernon officials.
Her message, quite simply, was that crime is on the decline in B.C. while citizens are paying increased taxes for the justice system. Her solution is to move the less severe crimes, like impaired driving tickets, out of the court room.
"We have a dropping crime rate, funding going up, and it takes longer for individuals to get there," Bond said, noting the often lengthy period of time it takes for people to get their court date fixed.
People would still have their day in court, but the process would be quicker and more efficient, while freeing up time and money for more serious offenses.
"Today, all of you invest a billion dollars into the justice system," Bond noted. She added the typical response to a failing system has been to pump more coin into it.
"I inherently disagree with that," Bond said. "There are other ways than simply writing a cheque."
Especially when crime rates are plummeting, which according to Bond is a testament to top-notch policing measures which she believes are better choices for funding.
Specific gang task forces have curbed gang-related crime and "put hundreds of gangsters in jail". The good results don't come cheap at $22 million a year.
"We found that money to make sure those units were in place," Bond said. Future funding is somewhat less certain.
"We're still grappling with the government on RCMP funding," she said. "It's very important to me on the heels of the missing women inquiry. We want to make sure it doesn't happen again."
She said news of the progress achieved by RCMP can have a hard time reaching public ears because the media only shows the "big spotlighted stories". This, she said, can lead to a negative perception of the RCMP. She said many initiatives, like the bait-car program, have had great success in combatting crime.
A new strategic plan will be released in the next few weeks which Bond "hopes will shape the future of policing."
Numerous community members attended the meeting, including Mayor Rob Sawatzky. Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster welcomed Bond, saying, "She's a great friend to MLAs."
Eric Foster gave the Hon. Shirley Bond a warm welcome.
(CHARLOTTE HELSTON / iNFOnews.ca)