EDITORIAL: Mayor on the money

With B.C. set to receive $53 million in federal policing funds – thanks to the Conservatives making good on a 2006 election promise to provide more money for law enforcement – things were bound to get parochial.

First into the fray to lobby for the cash was Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan, who earlier this month said his city should receive a chunk of the money to pay for nearly 100 more police officers.

He’s not alone. A handful of other B.C. municipalities – including Abbotsford, New Westminster and Victoria – also want a cut of the funds for their individual forces.

Not so fast, countered Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts. She wants to see the funding go to integrated police units that focus on gang-related offences and murders. Delta and Langleys’ mayors agree.

This position has rankled Sullivan, who insists he needs help financing the new officers lest his citizens face higher property taxes.

Oddly, last year the mayor and other NPA (Non-Partisan Association) members voted down a request from Vancouver Police for 65 new officers, agreeing to hire only 17. Now, in an election year, Sullivan wants to make good on a promise of 100 new cops – on the feds’ dime.

Vancouver officers make up just 20 per cent of the total police population in the province. Granted, their jurisdiction includes some of the more troublesome areas of the Lower Mainland – such as the Granville Street entertainment district and the Downtown Eastside.

But the kind of crime that is eroding the sense of public safety and confounding investigators – violent gang-, drug- and firearms-related offences – crosses all municipal boundaries.

Last week, Hark Hans, 28, who was gunned down at Surrey’s Eaglequest golf course, became the region’s 27th murder victim. This year alone, there have been 18 homicides in Metro Vancouver.

To put it mildly, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) tasked with solving these crimes is swamped, and the situation is starting to have an impact.

IHIT’s annual report, released in January, revealed the solved cases rate dropped to 62 per cent in 2006 from a high of 80 per cent in 2003. Sheer volume and complexity of cases are surely to blame. More resources are clearly needed.

With all due respect to Sullivan’s zeal for his corner of the world, Watts is right on the money with this one.

The federal funds must reinforce regional police.

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