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Sooke looks ahead to address policing costs

Plans are in place for growing population
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait says the district is prepared to address additional policing costs arising from the increasing population. (File - Sooke News Mirror)

The District of Sooke is prepared to address rising policing costs as the population grows, says Mayor Maja Tait.

Policing costs for Greater Victoria and surrounding municipalities show that Sooke is at the high end of population per officer at 1,160 people per officer, compared to 821 in Sidney and 831 in Langford, both, like Sooke, served by the RCMP.

“We are close to the target of one officer per 1,000 as laid out in our (official community plan),” Tait said. “As the population grows, we will pay for additional officers to address that growth.”

That will be done not through a property tax increase, but through restructuring based on population growth as laid out in the finance director’s five-year plan, Tait said.

“We know as the population increases to 15,000, policing costs will increase from 75 per cent to 90 per cent,” she said. “We are prepared to address that, in part, through reserve funds.”

That will also help with the financial impact of the RCMP unionization, which will increase costs as well, Tait added.

“One issue I’ve been very vocal about is the surprise of having to pay for 911 costs,” she said. “This was not part of long-term negotiations with the RCMP that were completed in 2012. To now say we have to pay for this is an unexpected burden.”

The cost for that starts at $60,000 for Sooke, which is an increase of .65 per cent this year, but will increase to 3.13 per cent, about $288,000 in 2025.

“That cost came out of nowhere and it impacts many municipalities on the South Island,” Tait said. “As View Royal Mayor David Screech pointed out, local governments would normally have the ability to procure services (like that) through a bidding process. Now we’re forced into E-Comm (911 emergency dispatch), good or bad.”

RELATED: Province wants Sooke to cover police 911 costs by 2022

Tait used the cost of fire service emergency calls in the Capital Regional District as an example. Although that service was previously handled through Langford, Sooke secured its current service from Saanich through a bidding process.

Regarding the question of response time for policing issues in Sooke, Tait said although there is currently 24-hour service, the goal is to improve service levels to meet the growing population needs of the community.

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