The B.C. government has launched an investigation into a surge in crime connected to repeat offenders in the province.
The province, in co-operation with the BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus, has hired two experts to investigate and report on prolific offenders and random violent attacks.
The investigation will be led by health researcher and criminologist Amanda Butler, and former Vancouver deputy police chief Doug LePard.
In April, B.C.’s urban mayors sent detailed information to the province on shifting crime patterns during the pandemic that were particularly hurting downtown retail areas.
“Simply because we are compassionate, concerned and taking action on mental health and addiction issues does not mean that we have to accept criminal behaviour, vandalism, or violence in our communities,” Attorney General David Eby said Thursday.
“We agree with the mayors that creative solutions within our authority are needed.”
This investigation and recommendation structure are similar to actions taken by the province to address money laundering, as well as the financial crisis at ICBC.
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The report is scheduled to be returned to the province within 120 days.
If investigators come up with possible solutions while conducting their work, they can bring those forward early and the province will consider immediate implementation. As part of the investigation, specific proposals already received by the government will be considered for both effectiveness, and the feasibility of their implementation.
“We know that some, not all, prolific offenders experience mental health and substance-use challenges, and for these individuals, a path to care and treatment is needed to address the root cause of the problem,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said.
“It will be through courageous leadership and the continued co-operation of all levels of government that solutions of adequate care and consequences will address prolific-offender crime in our cities.”
Since 2017, there has been an increase of 118 per cent in the amount of time the province takes to review files it receives from police. The rate of BC Prosecution Service decisions not charge suspects based on police cases has also increased 75 per cent, in according to the BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus letter.
The sharp increase in repeat offences has largely been centered around downtown cores, while the province has seen a drop-off in repeat offences in residential neighbourhoods.
“As the mayors of B.C.’s large urban cities, we are at ground zero of hearing the frustration and seeing the consequential impacts that repeat property offenders are having on our communities, local businesses and residents’ sense of safety,” Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said.