Hubs will be based in 12 B.C. communities
The British Columbia government says it is creating hubs made up of police, dedicated prosecutors and probation officers to target repeat violent offenders across the province.
The 12 hubs are part of the Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative, which the province says will focus on targeted enforcement and enhanced investigation and monitoring and will be tailored to meet the needs of communities.
During a news conference Wednesday in Nanaimo, B.C., Premier David Eby said the hubs will "target the small but serious number of people causing the most chaos while also making sure services are available to those who need them and who are ready to access them."
Nanaimo will be home to one of the hubs, along with Victoria, Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster, Abbotsford, Kamloops, Kelowna, Cranbrook, Prince George, Williams Lake and Terrace.
The hubs will start work at the beginning of next month, according to the premier.
"To everyone listening today, the message is this: if you break the law, there will be serious consequences. If you need support to break the cycle of offending, it will be available to you," Eby said.
B.C. Attorney General Niki Sharma added that a co-ordinated approach is needed to address repeat violent offenders, which have become a growing concern across the country.
Hubs will be located in Nanaimo, Victoria, Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster, Abbotsford, Kamloops, Kelowna, Cranbrook, Prince George, Williams Lake and Terrace.
Province investing $16M over 3 years
The initiative will be supported by the new Special Investigation and Targeted Enforcement (SITE) program aimed at bolstering investigations of cases involving repeat violent offender and improving information-sharing between police agencies. The province is investing $16 million over three years in the program.
In November, Eby presented a range of new measures, dubbed the "Safer Communities Action Plan," aimed at boosting public safety in communities across B.C.
Eby said the B.C. government is committing $1 billion in this year's budget in mental health and addiction services.
"Sometimes a health response is needed too, not just a criminal justice one," Eby said.
Last month, more than 100 people took part in a rally in Nanaimo where the news conference was held to express their frustration with what they described as escalating crime and a lack of policing. The rally came days after a local mechanic shop owner was shot while trying to retrieve his stolen tools from a makeshift encampment.
Decades of failed social policy: Krog
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said Wednesday that the situation in his city and others across the province is the result of decades of failed social and health policy.
He said extra supports are needed to ensure public safety while addressing the root causes of crime.
"We all know that across this province in every community, there are a number of individuals who are significant repeat offenders, who consume a great deal of police resources, taking time from all kinds of other policing activities that are important," Krog said.
"I think as far as a short-term solution goes, it's going to be helpful. Is it perfect? No. But you know what, it's a very good start."
The Surrey Board of Trade welcomed Wednesday's announcement, saying a sense of public safety is key to a community's economic development.
"We know that repeat offenders cause distress to the public and to businesses, leading some businesses to shut down or relocate, and others choose not to open shop in certain areas," said Surrey Board of Trade president and CEO.Anita Huberman."
– With files from Claire Palmer and Akshay Kulkarni
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca