For the first time in almost 10 years, the district plans to expand the Mission police force.
Three more Mounties are expected to join the detachment, bringing the total number of officers funded by the district to 50.
The funding for additional officers are part of this year’s budget exercise currently underway, but Mayor Randy Hawes said the decision, which may require a slight tax increase this year, has been made.
“It just has to be formalized in the budget,” said Hawes. “This council is adamant. We will hire (new officers).”
Mission has been approved for 50 officers for years, but has only funded 47.
“We have not hired an officer in 10 years,” noted Hawes. “We’re well past due. I know there are enough problems in Mission and those officers are badly needed.”
Coun. Jim Hinds, who campaigned on improving public safety in the last election, agreed.
“The population has grown, and we need new police officers to expand on what we have,” said Hinds. “We can’t keep putting this stuff off.”
Hinds noted the previous council chose to “save money” to pay down the debt, but he said underfunding safety isn’t the way to do it.
“It’s costing us money because of the amount of damage being done in town,” said Hinds, adding the criminal activities taking place and the perception of them happening have a negative impact on the community. “We need to start doing proactive things for the whole community.”
Coun. Jenny Stevens, who was a member of the previous council, was the only member opposed to adding the cost of three officers to the budget.
“I voted against it because I felt three officers in one year is too many,” said Stevens.
According to a Police Resourcing Methodology study conducted by RCMP E Division in 2012, Mounties in Mission have less time to focus on police priorities and proactive duties, such as patrolling problem areas and crime prevention, compared to their counterparts in the rest of the Lower Mainland. Officers here spend just 21 per cent of their time on those tasks, while the industry standard is 25 to 35 per cent.
“Calls for service for front line members have increased over the past three years, particularly with respect to mental health related calls and prolific offender related crimes,” said Mission Insp. Ted De Jager, noting the unallocated time his officers have continue to remain below the industry standard.
In a report to council, De Jager wrote, “Prolific offenders typically account for between 10 to 20 per cent of a community’s offender population, but are responsible for approximately 80 per cent of the crime. It is for this reason that prolific offender management and support to those suffering from mental illness is a priority for this detachment.”
Currently, there is one officer focusing on mental health issues, and De Jager plans to create a prolific offender team with the additional three Mounties.
“The intent is the create a full-time team that focuses solely on prolific offenders,” said De Jager, who hopes crime rates will fall once the team of about a half dozen members are trained and established in their roles. “They will be connected deeply with corrections, probation officers and Crown counsel to ensure prolific offenders are being managed correctly, to make sure they’re getting help to get out of their life of crime.”
If a prolific offender continues to commit crimes, police will make it clear to them they are being watched, said De Jager, adding prolific offenders may have mental health issues.
“We know who a lot of the people are because we’ve dealt with them,” De Jager explained. “They are in our system. We want to help them, and if we can, that’s a benefit. It’s a community issue.”
There are currently 53 officers at the detachment, with six being funded by the province.
The three new officers will cost the district $405,000, which would have a 1.45 per cent impact on this year’s property taxes. The full budget is slated to be presented to the public for consultation at a council meeting on March 16.