The provincial government intends to target violent repeat offenders by setting up 12 ‘hubs’ dedicated to the issue.
B.C. Premier David Eby and his government, at a press conference Wednesday, April 12, outside the Nanaimo Courthouse, announced the creation of the 12 teams of police, prosecutors and probation officers as part of the province’s $25-million repeat violent offending intervention initiative.
The hubs will be based in Nanaimo, Victoria, Vancouver, Surrey, New Westminster, Abbotsford, Kamloops, Kelowna, Cranbrook, Prince George, Williams Lake and Terrace, and each will also serve surrounding communities.
According to a press release from the province, the hubs will work with local stakeholders and with existing programs such as situation tables, “co-ordinating responses” through the justice system and connecting offenders with social services.
Eby said in the release that ensuring community safety requires co-ordinated and determined work.
“These new regional hubs will help prosecutors, police and corrections officials focus on addressing specific repeat prolific offenders to keep communities safe,” he said. “This will deliver serious consequences for those who repeatedly break the law, while also making sure targeted services are available to those who are ready for them.”
Eby said the Nanaimo hub will begin full service in May.
The provincial government announced its repeat offender intervention initiative last month, noting that the $25 million would support 21 Crown counsel, 21 B.C. Prosecution Service support staff and 34 corrections officials, supervisors and probation officers. Daniel McLaughlin, prosecution service spokesperson, told the News Bulletin four Crown counsel members have been assigned to the Island region, which has hubs in Nanaimo and Victoria.
Niki Sharma, B.C.’s attorney general, said in the release that crimes committed by repeat violent offenders are a concern nationwide, and said the province’s investment in dedicated Crown counsel will “provide criminal law advice and independent prosecutorial support and services to support the hubs and help build safer, more just communities.”
The B.C. government also announced it will spend $16 million over three years on a new special investigation and targeted enforcement program to help police agencies investigate and share information on cases involving repeat offenders.
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said in the release that he’s pleased that one of the hubs will be set up in his community, and expressed hope that an integrated approach will help address underlying issues while also disrupting crime and improving safety.
“We’ve witnessed the tragic fallout from repeat violent offending in Nanaimo far too many times,” he said. “I’m optimistic that these new initiatives will be the building blocks which will hold criminals accountable and prevent crimes from happening in the first place.”
Supt. Lisa Fletcher, Nanaimo RCMP commanding officer, said she could not give details on how the money would assist police, but was pleased with the announcement.
“Additonal resources are always greatly welcomed,” she told the News Bulletin. “We’re happy to work in collaboration with the province and with the city. We’ve had good support from the city.”
Kevan Shaw, Victoria Crescent Association past-president, said he is fed up with the lawlessness in his neighbourhood and was happy to hear about more provincial funding. With stabbings and shootings occurring in Nanaimo recently, this is long overdue, he said.
“The police are trying to do their jobs,” said Shaw. “They need the tools, so if Premier Eby and the rest of his cabinet members here today are finally [doing something], good. Let’s do it, but proof is in the pudding. We need to see what happens over the next year or two before more of Nanaimo’s citizens get killed.”