Sidney and North Saanich are withdrawing from the regional crime unit that targets Greater Victoria’s most prolific criminals, saying they’ve seen little benefit for the money spent by local taxpayers.
“Our commander in the [Sidney-North Saanich RCMP] detachment said we simply weren’t getting any value out of it,” said Sidney Mayor Larry Cross.
“It was just costs going one direction. There was really no need.”
The move will save Sidney $55,000 and North Saanich $44,000, and is another blow to a regional unit that has yet to recover from the departure of Victoria police in 2009.
The unit, created in 2008, was supposed to target the region’s most active criminals through cross-border investigations and undercover surveillance.
It started with 15 officers, but that was reduced when Victoria police withdrew four officers and $500,000 in funding, citing budget constraints as part of the reason.
The unit has only responded to Sidney once, Cross said. Meanwhile, Sidney has seen its RCMP costs rise $114,000, with funding for an additional officer required by 2015, he said.
“What I don’t want to see happen is our taxes shoot up astronomically for policing, and we probably get less service out of it,” he said.
North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall said only four or five incidents in the past five years required the unit in her municipality.
“The reason we pulled out of it was it had very little input in terms of our particular municipality, versus the costs we were paying for membership,” she said.
North Saanich continues to co-operate with other police departments, she said.
The regional crime unit still has 10 officers, but will have to absorb the loss of funding from both municipalities and will likely restrict travel and overtime, said Oak Bay Police Chief Mark Fisher, who sits on the unit’s joint management team.
“Were they active [in Sidney and North Saanich] as much as they are in the larger municipalities? No, they’re not,” he said. “But sometimes that’s the nature of where the criminals are active.”
He said the departure will be “challenging” to deal with.
The regional crime unit’s difficulties come as the mayors of the core municipalities ask the provincial government to investigate gaps in the capital’s integrated regional units.
Some police units have struggled to maintain funding and focus as municipalities join and leave after little consultation with neighbours.
Fisher also supervises the regional domestic-violence unit, which saw the departure recently of a Victoria police officer.
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