Would Island crime unit have cracked the Buziak case?

Saanich police opted out of group in 2007, the year before her death

When a serious crime occurs in a Vancouver Island community, it is investigated by a specialized team of police major-crime investigators from the RCMP and municipal forces.

Except, that is, if the crime happens in Saanich or Oak Bay.

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The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit, made up of 18 officers from RCMP detachments and municipal forces, was formed in 2007 to investigate serious cases such as murders. The unit, which can provide experienced officers and specialized resources to communities, is seen as a way for various police departments to co-operate on major cases.

But the Saanich police department, which also provides major crime services to Oak Bay on contract, opted out. Police Chief Mike Chadwick, deputy chief at the time, said the department's homicide detectives solve most of their cases on their own and in a cost-effective way.

Less than a year later, on Feb. 2, 2008, one of the region's highest-profile murders occurred in Saanich -- 24-year-old real estate agent Lindsay Buziak was stabbed to death in a vacant home in Gordon Head. After two years without an arrest, it raises the question: Should Saanich have joined?

According to former Saanich police chief Derek Egan, the answer is still no. In a July 2009 interview, he said he didn't regret not joining the unit and didn't think the choice had anything to do with why Buziak's murder is yet unsolved.

Retired homicide investigator Ray Kielan, who used to work for an RCMP serious- crime unit that provided long-term resources to smaller detachments working on homicide cases, said such integrated units can often provide help with unsolved files.

"Rather than err on the side of caution, you want to err on the side of having expended as much effort and done all that you possibly can," Kielan said.

But, he said, it's up to the investigators to decide whether they need the help.

And he cautioned that the silence from Saanich police on the file isn't a sign they don't have a suspect. He said detectives often keep information close to their chest during an investigation. They might have a strong suspect in mind but need more evidence or witnesses.

At one point, nearly 30 investigators worked to solve Buziak's murder. Now, five detectives are on the file, Saanich police spokeswoman Sgt. Julie Fast said. In the last year, she said new investigators have been brought in from other areas of the force to replace officers who either retired or switched departments.

The Buziak family is confident the police are working hard to solve the case and they still have hope her killer will be found, her uncle Art Reitmayer said.

kderosa@tc.canwest.com

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