The B.C. government is taking steps to address repeat criminal offenders in the province, after recent lobbying from the province's mayors.
On Thursday, Attorney General David Eby announced the province has hired former Vancouver Police Department deputy chief Doug LePard and criminologist Amanda Butler to investigate and report on trends in chronic property crime and violent offences in the province, and recommend solutions.
"We all have to live together, and recovery from the pandemic for hard-hit retailers and downtowns through safety and accessibility for everyone is part of ensuring British Columbia remains one of the best places in the world to live,” Eby said in a statement.
“We agree with the mayors that creative solutions within our authority are needed. Together, we've identified and hired the experts in policing and mental health needed to investigate these trends, identify solutions and help us implement them."
Last month, the BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus reached out to Eby and Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth with concerns about how downtown retailers in their cities are suffering from shifting crime patterns.
“Meetings with local and provincial police have confirmed these trends and pointed to a separate issue of random violent attacks in some centres,” the province said in its press release.
LePard and Butler's report is expected to be completed and made public by early fall.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, co-chair of the BCUMC, welcomed Thursday announcement.
“Kelowna Council, RCMP, residents and businesses are all frustrated by the current state of affairs,” said Mayor Basran. “Kelowna’s high property crime rates are attributable in large part to prolific offenders.
“We know we are doing our part to address safety concerns in our city, and we also know that systematic changes need to happen at the provincial level to truly address some core concerns about the administration of justice and public safety. Today’s announcement is a clear indication that opportunities to work together with the Province can lead to meaningful changes and improvements.”
In December of last year, the Kelowna RCMP identified 15 people who had a combined 1,039 “negative contacts” with police in the first 11 months of 2021. In a letter to the provincial government, the City of Kelowna highlighted one person who has 29 property crime and assault convictions since 2016, and has generated 346 RCMP files in that time.
“BC Prosecution Service statistics reveal it is receiving fewer files to review, taking longer to conclude those files, approving police recommended charges less often, and forwarding fewer cased to the courts where fewer people are found guilty and stays of proceeding are increasing,” said Darren Caul, City of Kelowna director of community safety.
“This data indicates a system that is under-resourced and under strain, which leads to frustrated communities, discouraged police officers, a lack of accountability for those who commit crimes and reduced confidence in our justice system.”
In a separate press release, the British Columbian Crown Counsel Association also welcomed the investigation.
"As Crown Counsel, our members are on the front lines and they see what’s happening,” said BCCCA president Kevin Marks.
“There are a number of immediate solutions that could be considered, including assigning a team of special chronic offender prosecutors to exclusively handle the cases of the best-known repeat offenders. By knowing the history and background of these offenders, they can better assist the court on making decisions that do not allow these offenders to freely commit crime while out on bail.”
Additionally, Marks has called for an increase in the number of prosecutors across B.C. to manage an increasing workload.
The City of Kelowna notes the Kelowna RCMP budget has increased 84% since 2016, from $27.9 million to $51.4 million in 2022.
The province has commissioned similar reports investigating money-laundering in B.C. and the financial crisis at ICBC.