Dawson Creek considers cutting RCMP positions despite spike in crime
Council looking at reduction in law enforcement positions as part of larger budget cut
Dawson Creek, B.C., is looking at a $1.3 million cut to its budget this year, affecting everything from funding for libraries to the number of law enforcement officers — despite a recent spike in crime.
Council is looking at reducing the number of RCMP positions as one way to save money in the northeastern B.C. city, says Mayor Dale Bumstead.
"The direction this council is taking is about ensuring we have strong financial future and part of that is really balancing the demands of operating costs," Bumstead said.
"You can't do that consistently in terms of tax increases and more money, more money — it's less spending."
The city's RCMP is currently fully staffed with 25 members but has operated with just 21 or 22 officers in the past because of difficulty filling vacancies, Bumstead said.
In those cases, city still has to budget for the full number of positions — even if it's ultimately not billed. Dawson Creek pays for 70 per cent of the cost of policing.
"The council has said 'Look, if we're operating with 22 or 21 [officers], shouldn't we be budgeting for that amount?" Bumstead said.
The city is now considering getting rid of three permanent RCMP positions.
Spike in crime last year
The move has some members of the community concerned, particularly after a recent increase in crime in the city and surrounding area.
Commercial break-ins were up by more than 200 per cent last year.
In just two weeks last November, there was a string of separate violent crimes including multiple shootings and a violent home invasion.
"It's obviously a big concern for the community," Bumstead said.
"In terms of people concerned about the message that we're not taking public safety seriously for our community, we certainly don't want that message to be out there."
He emphasized that public safety is a priority for the city and a "major pillar" for the community.
In addition to policing, council is also looking at other way to improve safety.
"We're trying to raise the profile of volunteer organizations like Citizens on Patrol," he said.
"All of us as community members can help do our part in reducing that crime that occurs in our community."
Any decision about the city's policing services would involve input from the federal and provincial governments, Bumstead added.
The second draft of the city's plans for the budget cut will be presented at a public meeting on March 11.
With files from Daybreak North