Delta’s mayor and police chief say a lack of policing at Deltaport may be allowing criminal activity to run unchecked, and they want a solution fast.
The port is the busiest in all of Canada and the fourth largest in all of North America, with more than 2.4 million containers flowing in and out every year.
But according to Police Chief Neil Dubord, only about 0.5 per cent of them are heading onto ships or trucks with their contents getting a closer look.
That statistic is concerning to Mayor George Harvie, who says criminals could be using it to their advantage.
“If you’re an organized crime member, it’s pretty good odds to take a container through Deltaport when only 0.5 per cent get inspected,” Harvie said.
The port used to have a dedicated policing program known as the Ports Canada Police, which also patrolled the Port of Vancouver and other waterfront shipping areas.
But the federal government cut the program back in 1997.
Ever since then, it’s been up to Delta Police to respond to issues there. The municipal force averages about 75 calls a year to the port, Dubord says.
A RCMP-led Waterfront Joint Forces Operation unit once existed to fight crime at the ports, but the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority pulled its funding in 2015.
WATCH: (May 30) Strike averted at Port of Vancouver
Harvie plans to bring the issue up at the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting next month, calling on the group to lobby the federal and provincial governments for renewed funding.
“There needs to be an integrated network put in the ports, so organized crime doesn’t feel it has an open gate to bring illicit drugs into this country,” the mayor said, which Dubord agrees with.
“It’s not unlike money laundering where you require an expertise to be able to investigate and really understand,” he said.
In his second report on money laundering in B.C., former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Peter German also highlights the lack of a dedicated port policing force in Metro Vancouver.
The absence stands in stark contrast to other port cities like Seattle, whose Port of Seattle Police Department has 150 members mandated to patrol both the Seaport and SeaTac Airport along with customs and border officials.
“In the post-911 world this is a serious gap in our law enforcement umbrella,” German writes, adding later the “need to address the export of stolen and fraudulently obtained vehicles from ports in Greater Vancouver is a subset of the larger issue of port enforcement.”
The RCMP lists a national ports strategy among its policing programs, but is largely an intelligence-led program that leaves day-to-day policing to local municipalities and detachments.
The Port of Vancouver says on its website its security systems “meet or exceed North American standards.”
Global News has reached out to the Port of Vancouver and the provincial and federal ministers of public safety for comment.