The City of Vancouver has seen a dramatic increase in violent crime. Citizens increasingly do not feel safe in their communities. Business owners are wondering how much longer they’ll be able to keep their doors open. It is critically important that our elected officials not only acknowledge this – but take action. Because safety is your right.
To that end, the Vancouver Police Union recently surveyed Vancouver’s political parties to determine where they stood on issues of public safety, including:
- The “defund the police” movement
- Addressing the escalation in violent and property crime
- The decriminalisation of small quantities of “hard” drugs
Increased resources – including more front-line officers – for the Vancouver Police Department (VPD)
So how did they score in terms of making Vancouver safer?
Below is a summary of their responses. Their answers have been summarised for conciseness and brevity. You can find the full survey questions and answers here.
As you read them, consider this: will this party and their candidates make improving public safety a right? And remember to take the Safety Is A Right pledge and, most importantly, vote on October 15!
On “defunding” the police
ABC does not support “defunding the police,” citing a reduction in police resources as having a disproportionate impact on racialized communities. ABC agrees there’s a need to increase support for social programs, but not at the expense of supporting the increasing needs of the VPD.
A Forward Together administration would continue to fully fund the VPD as requested by the Vancouver Police Board, noting that in the past four years the City of Vancouver has fully-funded the VPD as per the board’s statute-required request.
The Green Party does not endorse policies to specifically “defund the police,” but does support increased spending on social, health, and housing programs that will reduce the need for police response to issues that are within their core responsibilities.
The NPA will actively oppose any effort to “defund the police” and supports an extensive policy review that will empower the VPD to serve citizens. The NPA believes the “defund the police” movement has damaged relationships with community stakeholders.
Progress believes funding for social programs that reduce demand on the VPD should be increased, but that funding should not come from within the police budget.
Citing public bodies such as the BC Human Rights Commission and the VPD, One City says there is recognition the Vancouver police is responding to calls that could be better addressed by a different type of service. One City believes in adequately funding community-based organisations and outreach services to assure the “best suited” teams are responding to community needs.
Vision does not support “defunding the police,” but notes that the VPD budget has grown “exponentially,” that the police budget is 21% of the total City of Vancouver budget and Vancouverites want accountability for the “state of their public services.”
On addressing the escalation in violent and property crime
ABC will work with the VPD to outline targets, goals, KPIs and objectives that will allow the police to develop targeted, operational programs. ABC believes Mayor and Council are there to provide governance and direction, with one their policing priorities being tackling anti-Asian and other hate-related crimes.
Forward Together believes under-funding of the mental health and justice systems is endangering the safety of the community and first-responders, including police officers. To that end, they will continue to advocate for investing in improved housing and services that will reduce the number of overdoses, hospitalizations and calls to police, in addition to increased funding for community clean-up grants to reduce graffiti and waste.
Greens believe the solution to many of the current public safety challenges are the result of inadequate housing and additional supports. They will push for more drop-in spaces, more public washrooms, low-barrier employment opportunities and other complex-care initiatives. Greens also support strategies for more assertive graffiti and tagging abatement, micro-cleaning and other non-policing interventions.
The NPA is focused on “tangible” policies to reduce crime in Vancouver, including: ensuring there is “crisis-level leadership” on public safety at city hall, adopting and implementing programs that combine harm reduction and treatment, community consultation that doesn’t just shift issues from one neighbourhood to the next, program models, treatment and prevention, aggressively pursue “no-go” zones for certain types of offenders and expand the use of crime proceeds with some, or all, going to support policing initiatives.
If elected, a Progress administration would secure senior government funding to buy up all the city’s privately-owned occupancy hotels, and demolish them in favour of public, government-owned housing with mental health and community supports. Progress would also cut red tape at city hall to speed up building permits and rezoning, build public washrooms and increase the number of safe needle disposal boxes.
One City would focus on ensuring community members’ basic needs for housing, health care and social support are met. Specifically, they would build housing, increase street lighting, seating and accessibility for people with mobility issues, ensure every neighbourhood has access to well-maintained public washrooms and working water fountains and explore programs to deter graffiti by providing other opportunities to create public art.
Vision Vancouver would invest in on-the-ground engagement in neighbourhoods to facilitate conversations between businesses, community agencies and residents. The intent of these conversations is to identify and methodically tackle issues that make people feel unsafe such as graffiti and needle exchanges, drops, and clean-up. Vision would also advocate for solutions that work, such as having staff in social housing projects who are already pro-actively working in their communities.
On decriminalising the possession of small amounts of “hard drugs”
ABC Vancouver supports the development and publication of clear metrics and benchmarks for assessing the outcomes of this temporary decriminalisation trial.
Forward Together strongly supports science-based outcome studies of decriminalisation.
Greens are evidence-based decision makers and feel it is important we evaluate and analyze the context and results here in Vancouver and relative to North America.
The NPA would recommend an “efficiency analysis” of this pilot project. If it does not produce the intended results, we would recommend that it ends.
Progress would work with experts to establish clear benchmarks.
OneCity supports evidence-based approaches to saving lives and ending the drug poisoning crisis.
Visions supports the decriminalisation pilot project.
On increased resources - including more front-line officers - for the Vancouver Police Department (VPD)
ABC would not only increase VPD resources but commit to a specific budget line increase of $20 million on day one to hire 100 new police officers and 100 mental health nurses.
Forward Together will continue to fund provincially-appointed Vancouver Police Board funding requests, as required under Section 403 of the Police Act. Service additions will be considered, if they are included in the Vancouver Police Board’s annual submission to Vancouver City Council.
Greens understand that modern policing is complex, and some areas of police deployment would be better served by, for example, mental health workers and better supportive housing options. Greens are very concerned about the high levels of stress, burn out, and associated mental and physical health impacts faced by police and would support more and better counselling for VPD members.
The NPA feels the VPD has been actively “defund” since 2009 and supports hiring more officers in addition to bringing online other resources to help reduce stress, pressure and burnout.
Policing needs to be adequately resourced. Progress supports clear and established metris relating to call volume and response times and will allocate resources accordingly. The solution to reducing stress and burnout within the VPD is to redirect them from calls that do not require a policing response.
OneCity supports detasking the police and reallocating funds towards community organisations and agencies that are better suited to address issues of mental illness, addiction, poverty, and the lack of social supports in our communities. OneCity will also invest in more Indigenous-led justice and community safety initiatives that help reduce the burden on police and alleviate the need for additional officers.
The police budget has grown exponentially and now represents 21% of the City of Vancouver’s total budget. Vision believes strongly in being accountable to voters, and, as such, sees no validation a targeted investment in more policing resources is needed.