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‘Converging social crises’: Groups rallies in B.C., demanding crackdown on crime

Click to play video: 'Public safety rallies held across BC'
Public safety rallies held across BC
Several grassroots rallies were held across the province with participants saying "enough is enough" when it comes to violent crimes and public disorder. Several high-profile incidents have left people feeling unsafe, and demanding change – Apr 28, 2023

Public safety has been at the forefront of concerns for many British Columbians in recent months, spurring protests in several major B.C. cities on Thursday afternoon.

Rallies were held in Victoria, Surrey, Nanaimo, Kamloops, Penticton, Prince George, and Dawson Creek, highlighting an escalation of “converging social crises,” according to the Nanaimo Area Public Safety Association. More than 100 people turned up in Nanaimo alone.

“We now have a housing and affordability crisis, a mental health and addictions crisis, and a judicial system crisis which have combined to result in a Public Safety Emergency province-wide,” said association president Collen Middleton in a Thursday news release.

“There is no time for partisanship or divisive politics. The deadly and life/livelihood-threatening incidents continue to pile up across the province at an alarming rate. Enough is Enough.”

Click to play video: 'Public safety rallies at several B.C. cities'
Public safety rallies at several B.C. cities
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In Penticton, residents rallied on Riverside Drive, concerned repeat offenders have been slipping through the cracks of the justice system and released to offend again.

“I just hope that the legal system, the judges and whoever else can do something about it, will do something about it,” said demonstrator Frank McCracken.

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“So often, we just shake our heads when reading the news about who’s been released into the public, that really should never be out again.”

“The state of where we’re at today with drug addiction and crime is getting to a point where people don’t feel safe,” added Michelle Bell.

“Also, the fact that lots of people this year, with inflation and different things are becoming — the working class is becoming homeless.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. attorney general releases more troubling stats on violent crime and repeat offenders'
B.C. attorney general releases more troubling stats on violent crime and repeat offenders
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The perceived rise in crime has been a hot topic in the past few years, with concerns surrounding opioids, mental health, homelessness and judicial issues.

A recent Metro Vancouver survey said around 40 per cent of community members believe law enforcement is not doing enough, while 60 per cent said the same for the government.

New statistics have also reignited the debate around violent, repeat offenders in B.C., with the provincial government calling for federal bail reform. Data released by the BC Prosecution Service showed judges ordered pre-trail detention in less than half of cases when Crown prosecutors sought it.

Outside the legislature in Victoria, Clint Smith, a shooting victim, said politicians who fail to act on the crisis could see themselves voted out of office.

“All governments owe its constituents,” he said. “All the repercussions and failure to act will be dealt with swiftly and appropriately at the ballot box.

“Demand our communities return to faith peaceful and realistic levels of law enforcement of our laws so that we no longer fear being out in public and being in our own neighborhoods. Demand less lip service and more action. ”

Click to play video: 'Canadian premiers look to address public safety'
Canadian premiers look to address public safety

In a statement, federal Justice Minister David Lametti’s office said it was working closely with all provinces to address the problem of repeat violent offenders.

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B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Thursday the government understands citizens’ frustration bail provision and Criminal Code reform is coming.

“It’s why we’ve made the significant investments that we have in additional policing to have 277 RCMP officers and that funding for that in place,” he told reporters at the legislature.

“It’s why we’re expanding the programs to deal with root causes of crime, whether it’s mental health services, whether it’s housing … because we take this issue very seriously.”

— with files from Simon Little and Elizabeth McSheffrey

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