British Columbia

Victoria police say more officers needed at tent city

Victoria Police Department says more cops needed as "increase in violence" being seen on site. But since the courthouse is provincial property, should the province pay?

Inspector says 'criminal element' on site, but should city or province pay for more cops?

About 100 people have been camping on the lawn of the Victoria courthouse since last fall. Now, VicPD says violence and criminal activity has grown worse at the site. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Victoria police want to step up their presence at the city's long-running homeless camp, but the question is who's going to pay for it?

The city's police department is in talks with the province on who should pay for extra resources at the courthouse camp, where about 100 people have been living since the fall.

Inspector Scott McGregor with the force says criminal activity at the site has been on the rise lately.

"We've seen an increase in violence on the site," he said. "And we think that's directly connected to a criminal element that has moved onto that site. Persons that are trafficking drugs."

McGregor says the force has put forward a plan to increase the amount of time officers spend at the camp, but who will pay for those extra resources is part of the discussion, as the property belongs to the provincial government.

B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman says extra policing costs at the Victoria tent city should be borne by VicPD. ((CBC))

"We think that next step would be for us to have some static officers onsite for a period of time everyday," he said.

The province has been trying to manage the homeless camp since a bid for an injunction to shut it down failed last month. It does have the option of going back to court if it feels safety at the site has deteriorated, and Housing Minister Rich Coleman says that option is still on the table.

But in the meantime, he says extra policing costs are a matter for the Victoria Police Department.

"In policing it's always been you put your resources where they're needed the most," Coleman said.

The province's next scheduled court date for an injunction to shut down the camp is scheduled for the fall; on Friday, Victoria City Council will meet to discuss the city's police budget and more resources for the tent city.