Coalition of B.C. mayors call for action on crime, prolific offenders

Mayors want justice change

The province needs to find "tangible solutions" to the way it deals with prolific offenders.

That's according to the Urban Mayors' Caucus, which suggests in a letter to Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth that the present catch-and-release cycle within the justice system needs fixing.

Their data suggests prolific offenders — a small group of criminals who commit a large number of crimes — are routinely arrested with charges recommended, but are either not charged and/or released on bail, often without conditions.

"Of concern," the letter states,"Is the BC Prosecution Services requirements for full disclosure packages in all cases including complex files and serious crimes such as homicide.

"This results in individuals charged with the most serious of offences being released back in the community until disclosure occurs, presenting a risk to general public safety."

The letter suggests an offender in Kamloops, released while charge assessments were being reviewed, was suspected in a homicide the day charges were approved.

Data shows in 2021, 204 prolific offenders within 10 of the province's 13 urban municipalities were responsible for more than 11,600 "negative police contacts."

A negative contact is a person being considered a suspect, have been charged or charges have been recommended.

In Kelowna, 15 chronic offenders, those with 30 or more negative contacts in the last 12 months, are the subject of more than 1,000 negative police contacts. One offender has generated 346 police files over the past six years with 29 convictions for property crime and assault.

"The offender is routinely released with conditions, and subsequently released."

The opposition BC Liberals latched onto the letter, demanding action in the legislature Tuesday.

Public safety and solicitor general critic Mike Morris said the government needs to do something about prolific offenders and the impact they are having on B.C. communities.

He says the letter claims there has been a 118 per cent increase in the amount of time it is taking the province to review files received from police over the past five years. There is a 75 per cent increase in the rate of no-charge assessment and a 26 per cent decrease in the number of accused being approved to go to court.

“The Attorney General has tools at his disposal that he could use to reduce these troubling numbers — but he’s choosing not to use them,” said Kamloops South MLA Todd Stone.

“We know that Minister Eby has a history of playing hardball with local governments, so it’s no surprise the mayors have been forced to plead with him in private out of fear of retribution. Minister Eby needs to restore faith in our justice system so people in our communities can feel safe on our streets once again, and we are calling on him to support the solutions put forward by the group of mayors.”

The letter from the mayors' caucus asks for stricter conditions and consequences for repeat offenders, more resources for the BC Prosecution Service and implementation of community courts across the province.

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