VicPD Chief Manak spoke to Council Thursday Sept 7. It was an interesting discussion.
The safety of all residents, housed and unhoused, is a big concern for me. As I said in the meeting, repeat violent offenders need to be kept off the street. The Chief noted that the number is small, and this reminded me of the Julian Daly and Nathan Medd article: “A four-point plan to ease the suffering on our streets” Times Colonist July 20, 2023
Daly and Medd wrote that it’s a:
“small number of ‘bad operators’ on the street — those who are dangerous, and extremely physically and sexually violent, and those who traffic unhoused people, mainly women — and repeat offenders. This is not criminalizing homelessness or poverty but recognizing that unhoused people are disproportionately the victims of crime and deserve the same protection as housed citizens.”
Incarcerating these people is one of the four key elements to addressing Victoria’s street disorder problem. Chief Manak agreed that success will require justice system capacity. Capacity is needed from the initial bail court appearance (prosecutors, judges & courtrooms), to remand (jail), through to trial, and prison. Some of these pieces have been affected by COVID, but others have been in shortage for decades.
There are new teams (“hubs”) dealing with repeat violent offenders in a number of communities, including Victoria. These were announced by the province in April. Chief Manak advised that these have specialist prosecutors and more scrutiny for top 40 repeat violent offenders. As the Chief notes, the hubs look good on paper; they need to be fully built out to be effective. Without justice system capacity, we too often return dangerous people to the streets without support or supervision, which puts the community, police officers, and the offenders themselves at risk.
As noted, incarcerating the “bad operators” is just one of the elements to addressing the street disorder problem. I’ve pointed out many times that we also need a robust detox-treatment-rehabilitation pathway that leads to safe housing and supports, mental health care system capacity, and for many people we just need simple affordable housing. There is no single magic bullet; we will need it all.
And these investments will now cost more than it would have cost to maintain the systems we had in place prior to the politically-motivated, ideological spending cuts of the 1980s and 1990s that got us into this mess. But it’s going to save money to deal with this problem properly, rather than letting the costs rise more, and letting the impact be felt on the hospital emergency ward, the City budget, housed residents, businesses, and – most of all – the unhoused.