Killings spur Vancouver mayor to renew call for regional police force
In the wake of the Lower Mainland's 12th incident of gunplay in just over two weeks, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is pleading for the creation of a regional police force to stop the bloodshed.
Some other regional mayors, however, say a Metro Vancouver force is not the answer. They claim it's not needed and not a simple task.
"How many killings does it have to take before we deal with gangs as a metro police force … and we have the same kind of resources that the other big cities in Canada have?" said Robertson, speaking at the scene of Vancouver's 7th homicide of the year on Fraser Street on Tuesday afternoon.
A regional police force is needed because gangsters aren't bound by city limits, Robertson said.
"I know in Vancouver we've put enormous resources into our police. Per capita, we are way above the city average, and the Metro area's average, but we can't chase gangsters all across the region," he said.
Vancouver is one of six municipalities in the Lower Mainland that has its own police force, including Delta, New Westminster, West Vancouver, Port Moody and Abbotsford. All other municipalities in the region use the RCMP for policing.
"All the municipalities have to step up, and the federal and provincial governments have to recognize that we need more support as a region," said Robertson.
West Vancouver police Chief Kash Heed has also called for a regional police force in the past, but B.C.'s Solicitor General John van Dongen warns such a move would require consensus from other municipalities.
Last year his office hosted a one-day conference in Vancouver to discuss the idea with local mayors, police chiefs and other community leaders, but nothing was resolved.
Consensus may be hard to find, according to Metro Vancouver board chair and Delta Mayor Lois Jackson.
"I don't think it's a good idea at all. I think we have the tools we need. People are talking about better communication between police departments and so forth and a great deal of money has been put into that," said Jackson.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said that the call for police integration is a surprising about-face for Vancouver.
"In some ways Vancouver has chosen for a long time to go it alone, while the rest of the municipalities outside Vancouver have been working together," he said.
Vancouver and Delta are the only muncipalities in the Lower Mainland that do not participate in the regional Integrated Homicide Investigation Team with the RCMP.
Vancouver and Delta do participate in the provincewide Integrated Gang Task Force, which was created in October 2004 with a focus on the Lower Mainland.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts doesn't think a regional police force is the answer.
"If it was that simplistic we would have done that 20 years ago," she said.
Watts agrees with Robertson's calls for more police, but said existing integrated gang units are effective and fluid in moving about the Lower Mainland.
But Robertson maintains that the integrated units are not the solution to the wave of gun violence.
"We have integrated gang task force but that's not the be all and end all," said Robertson.