Victoria police looking to team up with Saanich against cyber criminals

Victoria Police Department is looking at partnering with Saanich police on an integrated cyber crime unit.

Police Chief Del Manak told city councillors that cyber criminals, hacking and the dark net are having a “major, major impact.”

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“You don’t even have to go and buy drugs and traffic drugs on the street anymore because you can literally go on the dark net and order your drugs, and they get delivered to your door,” Manak told councillors in a regular quarterly update.

“So that is an area that we’re looking at.”

Police are just “scratching the surface” when it comes to cyber crime because much of it goes unreported, he said.

“People aren’t even phoning police because they’re just going to their local computer outlet and saying: ‘My computer is locked out. … Somebody set up a payment for this amount of money and I don’t want to pay it but I would lose my pictures. What do I do?’ ” Manak said.

Manak said part of VicPD’s strategy is to work with other agencies — including Canada Post, Interpol and the RCMP — to address the problem.

Talk of a new integrated police unit comes as area mayors are working to develop better governance models that would provide new political oversight for such bodies.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the province has paid the cost of a consultant assisting in the development of recommendations. Draft recommendations are scheduled for review this week before being distributed to local councils and police boards for consideration.

The idea is to ensure public safety and value for money, and to avoid duplication by using integrated units, she said.

“Right now, there’s no governance structure. Police boards can just pull out or not pull out. It’s all up to the chiefs. So as elected officials, we have no control,” Helps said in an interview.

“The idea was that we should at least have a say.”

Helps called the process “an interesting dance” between police leadership, the province and local politicians.

“Everyone agrees that there could be more cohesion and better integration. Do we have the right things integrated right now? Is it working? What’s working? What’s not working?” she said.

“There’s not really any public reporting of the integrated units.”

The Regional Crime Unit, for example, secured high-profile arrests of prolific property criminals, but the integrated unit ultimately folded due to disagreements among Greater Victoria police departments.

Victoria Police Department pulled out first in 2009, frustrated that it was paying the bulk of the costs to catch offenders across the region. Central Saanich police and Sidney-North Saanich RCMP followed suit in 2014, which eventually led to the disbanding of the unit later that year.

In November 2014, the province introduced amendments to the Police Act that would force municipalities to participate in integrated policing units.

Langford Mayor Stew Young said the provincial government should pay for half the costs of all integrated units to take the pressure off cash-strapped municipalities struggling to pay for rising policing costs.

“If the province was funding it, all those people would have stayed in,” he said of the Regional Crime Unit.

Such an arrangement would allow the province to create an oversight body for the integrated units, which could prevent police departments from suddenly withdrawing, Young said.

“I’m not going to integrate with a municipality beside me who pays nothing,” he said.

“Unless you level the playing field, it will never work for integration.”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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