Victoria police given extra $76,000 to pay for officers to escort bylaw officers in parks
VICTORIA -- Another violent incident in a City of Victoria park has prompted city council to grant the city’s police chief the nearly $76,000 he was asking for. The money will fund two officers for four hours a day, seven days a week, to assist bylaw officers when patrolling the parks.
“We’ve had our bylaw officers who have been verbally assaulted, threatened, chased,” said Victoria police Chief Del Manak to council on Thursday. “We had an incident this morning at Cecelia Ravine where two bylaw officers where chased and feared for their safety and they had to take refuge in their vehicle.”
A man who lives in a tent in the park came after bylaw officers, wielding a shovel as a weapon. Police ended up arresting the man at gunpoint.
The vote passed 8-1. Coun. Ben Isitt was the only one to vote against the funding, saying there is no need for the additional expenditures in this case. What is needed here are more social services and less money directed to law enforcement, Isitt said.
“Bylaw has come up to us and they’ve told us that their officers don’t feel protected,” said Manak. “They don’t feel safe and they are unable to carry out their duties to their full effectiveness unless the police are there in a support role.”
On Wednesday, officers seized a baseball bat with nails and razor blades attached to it, as well as with two airsoft handguns, from an abandoned tent in the Royal Athletic Park parking lot.
Barry Whiston owns Moose Mobility across the street from Cecelia Ravine Park. He says crime has spiked in the neighbourhood and when he heard about Thursday’s incident with the shovel, he wasn’t surprised. He welcomes the extra funding for patrols.
“Any presence of police is not a bad thing, because they’re not going to do something right in front of a police officer,” said Whiston. “There’s going to be a sense of more safety, when you know that people are there to watch over stuff.”
“Right now, it feels like a free for all.”
CTV News talked to a woman who lives in Victoria’s Fairfield neighbourhood and walks through Beacon Hill Park regularly, against the advice of many of her friends. She says she will only come through in the mornings, when city staff are in the parks.
“Everyone I know, every woman, every man that I know that lives in Fairfield or James Bay, has been assaulted,” said the woman.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has promised that permanent camping in city parks will end at the end of March.
“Minister (Responsible for Housing David) Eby has been very strong that working together, the city and the province (are) going to offer everybody who is living in a park, an indoor space 24/7 by the end of March,” Helps said on Jan. 25.
It’s estimated that there are 300 campers living in parks around Greater Victoria and the end of March is a little over five weeks away.