Victoria promises support for downtown businesses after vandalism suspect charged
VICTORIA -- The City of Victoria has pledged to help businesses impacted by a senseless crime spree during the early morning hours of Wednesday. VicPD arrested a man after as many as 14 properties had their windows shattered that morning. The same person is believed to have stolen a Victoria Harbour Ferry just one day earlier.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says she has spoken with the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) to coordinate some form of grant for the impacted businesses.
“(This is) to send a signal that we want all of our businesses to make it through, we want all of our businesses to stay downtown,” said Helps during a press conference Thursday. “We want them to know that we have their backs.”
Details about the plan are still being worked out, including the amount of money to be provided. On Thursday, Helps also addressed questions about why the man police arrested for the window vandalism wasn’t already in custody, after he had been arrested the previous night for allegedly stealing a water taxi in the Inner Harbour.
“I was very frustrated by that and my first act was to ask the Police Chief and Deputy Chief as to why someone would be released after that, only to go on to commit acts of senseless vandalism,” said Helps.
On Thursday, Victoria police said even though the person had a previous record of charges and at least one prior conviction – before the alleged ferry incident – he didn’t meet the requirements for them to keep him in their cells.
VicPD spokesperson Bowen Osoko said a particularly relevant factor was that the police didn’t see a threat of harm to people if the suspect was released.
“So we're looking for, ‘Was this a violent offence? Does it put anybody else at risk? Now that we have identified the individual, what is the likelihood that they will appear in court?’” said Osoko.
Defence lawyer Michael Mulligan notes that the presumption of innocence is a key underlying principle when looking at whether to keep people accused of a crime in custody.
“The presumption of innocence would be pretty hollow if every person who was arrested – despite the presumption of innocence — was required to stay in jail,” Mulligan noted.
Both the Saanich and Victoria Police Departments add that, while it wasn’t a factor in this case, the pandemic is adding to the number of folks they are releasing for so called ‘minor offences’ on a promise to appear later in court.
“So with COVID there really is that part where we're really mindful of whether or not we need to bring someone into the building or whether we can handle things remotely, and we do handle things remotely,” said Osoko.
Following Wednesday’s arrest, however, the suspect was held in custody and ultimately charged in relation to the vandalism of the windows.
He is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.