SURREY – Get your Mounties two for one in Surrey, folks.
While 50 per cent discounts are usually reserved for Boxing Day sales, Surrey is launching a new program intended to cut policing bills in half for free public events.
Coun. Bruce Hayne said the move is to help cover the rising police costs associated with hosting such events.
Right now, police officers come at a cost of $105 per hour, which includes meals and overtime, Hayne said. If police vehicles are required, that goes up by $25.
"It’s become more and more expensive to police events and event organizers have been saying to us for a while now, ‘Can’t you help offset the costs?’" he said.
The city has set aside $50,000 this year from the council initiatives fund for the new program, Hayne explained. The idea is event organizers would pay for policing, and then apply to be reimbursed for up to 50 per cent of the total bill to a maximum of $35,000 per event.
During last year’s civic election, organizers of the annual Vaisakhi Parade in Surrey asked why they must bear the brunt of policing costs.
The City of Vancouver, for example, has a program to offset costs for some large-scale parades. Vancouver offers up to $50,000 for parades attended by more than 400,000 and up to $30,000 for those with between 100,000 and 400,000.
Surrey’s Vaisakhi parade, held in April, is estimated to attract between 200,000 and 250,000 people.
"Vaisakhi of course would be the biggest third party event (in Surrey)," Hayne said. "All the city events, Canada Day, Fusion Fest, those are city events so they’re already covered. This (fund) is for community festivals and events where additional policing is required."
According to Baljinder Singh Khera, spokesman for the Dasmesh Darbar gurdwara, which organizes the Vaisakhi parade, the temple alone spends about $225,000 on the parade – a third of which (roughly $75,000) goes toward RCMP presence for the day.
The temple also pays roughly $35,000 for private security because Khera says they’re told RCMP "don’t have enough manpower."
Khera welcomed the notion of the city covering some of the costs, saying organizers can’t afford any more increases.
"We’re already paying too much," he said.
"It’s very hard to cover. It’s hard to raise that much money."
POLICING COSTS MAY GO UP Meanwhile, Hayne is concerned policing costs for local events may rise following a national RCMP directive that says community safety officers and auxiliary
constables should be provided with armed supervisors when working in police uniform. The directive came as a result of two tragic incidents: three constables who were murdered in Moncton last June and the Parliament Hill shootings that took the life of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.
While some discretion remains at the
detachment level, a risk assessment must now be conducted on a case-by-case basis to determine the threat and level of oversight required to ensure the safety of anyone wearing a police uniform.
Chief Supt. Bill Fordy said the new directive could impact policing costs for festivals and events in the city.
Surrey has the largest auxiliary department in the country, with nearly 100 members.
Auxiliary constables, which are uniformed volunteers under the command of the RCMP, support a number of community policing programs and services, including Block Watch and Junior Police Academy.
They also provide traffic control and a visible police presence at special events.
Following the national directive, Surrey RCMP will need to do a threat assessment for each event, Fordy said.
"We’ve changed the policy on two categories of our employees of the organization by virtue of them wearing a uniform. So the community safety officers now cannot go to an incident or to an event without someone having a gun. Auxiliary constables are now in the same position," he said. "I’m not necessarily saying it’s 1:1, there’s an assessment on every auxiliary deployment. Some we say 5:1 is appropriate."
Hayne said city council has asked Fordy to provide estimates. "So we’re waiting to see what kind of impact that will have and what kind of ratio the RCMP feel is appropriate for members versus auxiliary. It is a little bit of wait and see."
Hayne is hopeful the 100 new officers set to come to Surrey this year will boost the force enough to reduce overtime costs to offset some of the anticipated increases from higher oversight being required.
firstname.lastname@example.org with files from The Province