Policing cost and efficiency are two of the main themes going from Surrey council to the provincial government as part of an examination of police services in this province.
In 2011, the province made a commitment to develop a long-term strategic plan for policing, now called the B.C. Policing and Community Safety Plan.
Part of that plan preparation involves engaging communities to unearth the main concerns felt locally.
A Surrey staff report submitted to Surrey council Monday outlined some of the city’s concerns.
Near the top is the escalating cost.
“The cost of local police service delivery has been increasing at a rate roughly double the combined rate of growth and inflation,” Surrey city manager Murray Dinwoodie wrote in the report to council Monday. “In Surrey, approximately 48 per cent of property taxes are directed to funding police services.”
In the coming years, that figure will rise to more than half, an increase that is “clearly not sustainable,” the report said.
Surrey is policed by the RCMP and has the largest detachment in Canada. The city spends about $113 million per year for RCMP services.
Another concern of Surrey’s is police efficiency.
“All businesses, including the business of providing police services, need to be focused on value for money and taking advantage of efficiencies,” Dinwoodie said. “A key business criterion relates to maximizing the benefits/outcomes achieved using available resources or alternatively, achieving outcome targets at a minimum cost.”
Another huge impact on local policing is caused directly by the provincial government, by way of downloading services to municipalities and their police departments.
“With the changes that the province has introduced in the management of mental health services (including addiction), the role of police officers has changed in some areas defaulted to being social workers.
“The current approach taken by the province in the context of addressing mental health and addictions issues is falling short of the needs that are evident in the City of Surrey,” Dinwoodie said in the report.
Adding to police, their challenges include the revolving door of the justice system. Delays result in police officers often having to make several appearances in court, when they could be better used out on the street fighting crime. In addition, offenders released on their own recognizance are often out committing crimes again.
Surrey has long wanted a community court, where people in need of rehabilitation can be sent, instead of to jail or back onto the street.
The province has not yet approved of that court for Surrey.
Surrey also wants to see new technologies brought here to strengthen efficiencies in policing.
And Surrey is pointing out the province needs to recognize the unique policing needs in each different community.
“A ‘one-size fits all’ policing service model will not align with the needs of most communities,” Dinwoodie said in his report. “The plan should be flexible so as to be able to respond to unique community attributes and needs.”
Council voted unanimously to send a copy of the report to the province as the City of Surrey’s input on the draft of the B.C. Policing and Community Safety Plan.