Budget cuts cited as Victoria police reduce hours at front desk

Victoria police have reduced staffing hours at their front desk, as budget cuts made by city councillors continue to have an impact.

“We’re going to take that officer that would be deployed at the front desk and actually deploy them out on the road in the field,” said Chief Del Manak.

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“What we feel is that it’s going to be far more efficient to have an officer in uniform instead of sitting and waiting for the public to come in, perhaps dropping off a statement or some evidence, to have them actually deployed out on the road.”

The new front-desk hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. There will be no weekend service. Current hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, all year. VicPD’s Esquimalt division hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday will not change.

Manak conceded the reduction in front-desk hours is significant, but said he has to use his limited resources in the most efficient manner.

At one point this past weekend, he said, there were more than 40 calls waiting to be dispatched.

“That means 40 people had called 911 and were waiting for the Victoria police to respond to their complaint,” Manak said.

People come to the front desk in the evenings and on weekends, “but the numbers are significantly lower,” he said.

The change comes on the heels of the police asking Victoria council to cover $135,300 in costs for policing special events, including $78,400 for Canada Day, $41,700 for the first three officers provided at special events run by non-profits and an estimated $15,200 for policing military-related events.

Police board finance chairman Sean Powell wrote to council to say that budget cuts made by councillors this year left the department unable to absorb the additional costs of policing special events.

Councillors in March approved a police department budget with a 3.2 per cent overall increase.

But unlike for other city departments, council decided the department would have to absorb the $690,000 cost of B.C.’s new employer health tax.

That meant cuts had to be made elsewhere.

“I did not support council’s decision on the budget,” said Mayor Lisa Helps, co-chair of the Victoria Esquimalt Police Board.

“These cuts that are coming now are a response. I don’t know how far it will go — the chief needs to work with the budget he was given.”

Manak said he plans to present the police board a report addressing such issues as work hours for front-line staff and redeployment and realignment of staff to meet budget realities.

Councillors’ decision to pay for special events policing from contingency funds is set to be ratified at Thursday’s council meeting.

A motion calling on city staff to investigate recovering the costs for policing military events and Remembrance Day from the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada, however, is not expected to pass.

That suggestion, added on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, sparked a firestorm of controversy.

Since then, at least two councillors have said they have changed their minds, leaving it short of the support it needs to pass.

Police say after-hours non-emergency reports can be made by calling the non-emergency line at 250-995-7654, or by using the online crime reporting service at vicpd.ca/reportcrimeonline.


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