VICTORIA -- Victoria’s top cop says that while Victoria is still a safe city, an increase in random attacks across the region and a rise in calls for service in Beacon Hill Park is concerning.

Victoria Police Chief Del Manak told CFAX 1070 Tuesday morning that public calls for service have increased by roughly 82 per cent in the Beacon Hill area compared to the same period in 2019, and reports of violent crimes in the area have risen by 29 per cent.

Manak says some of the increase in crime can be attributed to tent encampments in the area, though it is “hard to put your finger just on one thing.”

The police chief says that homeless encampments can be challenging to manage and can make people feel unsafe, both inside the tents and in nearby neighbourhoods.

“There’s many, many people that are congregating from many different walks of life with many different challenges and concerns,” Manak told CFAX.

“There are people who are truly experiencing homelessness, they need a place to stay, and they’re just trying to shelter in the parks,” he said.

“And mixed amongst those people are also many people who are criminals, and many people who are not criminals but who have mental health challenges who need mental health supports in place, but who are unfortunately not being served as they should be.”

Manak notes that crime is increasing across the region, however, and not just near homeless encampments.

The police chief recalled an incident on Monday afternoon where a man who was walking through the Mayfair shopping centre was approached by a stranger who said he had a gun and demanded the man hand over his cellphone.

“Luckily, the victim got a really good description of the suspect who stole his cellphone and we were able to intercept this male later on in the afternoon yesterday,” said Manak.

“But it’s just incidents like that, whether it’s random attacks that are happening in the public, (that are) certainly concerning for us.”

Manak adds that with health restrictions easing across the province, more people are re-entering the community, which can lead to conflicts.

In late June, Manak says that police responded to a fight between two groups of males at roughly 1:30 a.m. outside of a local restaurant in downtown Victoria.

“There was a disturbance, a fight broke out, and unfortunately a male ended up with a broken jaw. That’s a pretty serious injury that happened,” he said.

Manak says police are increasing patrols in the downtown area at night now that more people are going out amid the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the police chief says that there has been an increase in anti-police rhetoric in Victoria following a series of anti-racism protests across North America.

Manak says the increase has been “troubling,” but that police also receive many positive comments from the community.

“Those words of encouragement really do go a long way,” he said.

“I think overall Victoria and the region is safe. But I can tell you, speaking only for the Victoria police department, that crimes against persons are up.”