Finding ways to deal with B.C. prolific offenders 'decades in the making' | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Finding ways to deal with B.C. prolific offenders 'decades in the making'

Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.

The province of B.C. is investigating prolific offenders across the province and how best to deal with them.

Mayors of B.C.'s largest cities have pushed the province to keep prolific offenders out of the revolving doors of justice, as property crime and thefts rise in cities across the province.

"This has been decades in the making," Kelowna mayor Colin Basran said. "We have typically used an enforcement-only approach, and we know that can no longer continue."

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He added that the city has increased its policing budget by 84 per cent since 2016, and relying on a growing police budget to address criminals that end up back in custody several times in a year is "not working."

Over those six years, the Kelowna RCMP budget increased from $27.9 million to more than $51 million in 2022, with taxpayers footing the bill, according to a City of Kelowna news release.

At a press conference today, Ministers David Eby and Mike Farnworth said they tasked two investigators to spearhead an investigation, which is expected to recommend changes to both the justice and mental health system in the province.

The announcement by Eby, the Attorney-General and Housing Minister, and Farnworth, Solicitor-General, came after the NDP was called out by the opposition B.C. Liberals for being "soft on crime."

When 13 B.C. mayors asked police departments for data on chronic criminals across the province, they found just 200 people accounted for 11,000 police files in just one year, according to Victoria mayor Lisa Helps.

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In Kelowna, RCMP recorded 15 offenders from January to November 2021 with more than 1,000 dealings with police. One person in particular had 346 police files and 29 criminal convictions since 2016, according to a news release from the City of Kelowna.

Eby tasked former Metro Vancouver Transit Police chief, Doug Lepard, and criminologist Dr. Amanda Butler to find answers, which will be released within 120 days, according to a news release.

The report is expected to investigate what services the province should implement or expand in order to keep chronic offenders from returning to the courts over and over. The study is expected to overlap with mental health services, the B.C. Prosecution Service and law enforcement in the province.

According to Eby, the small group of criminals in each city are accounting for a significant amount of property crime and theft in the province, and while there is an overlap with some of them between criminal behaviour and mental health needs. He said they are causing fear in B.C. cities he blames these prolific offenders for people's apprehensions toward anything B.C. Housing shelters and supportive housing.

He added that while mental health supports are largely voluntary, these offenders are some of the least likely to opt into services like complex care or detox facilities.

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Eby likened the investigation to the report on money laundering in the province, which investigated how criminals siphon their money through B.C. casinos, mostly in the Metro Vancouver area.

"Our small businesses are struggling to recover from the pandemic," Victoria mayor Lisa Helps said. "As if the pandemic wasn't bad enough, we're also seeing an upswing from a very small number of people causing havoc in some of our downtowns."

Basran and Helps co-chair the B.C. Urban Mayors Caucus, which is made up of 13 mayors from cities, including Kamloops, Prince George, Nanaimo and Vancouver.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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