B.C. Attorney General David Eby takes questions at the legislature, April 25, 2021. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. Attorney General David Eby takes questions at the legislature, April 25, 2021. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. cities protest ‘prolific offenders’ with hundreds of arrests

Mental illness driving downtown disorder, Eby says

Chronic offenders in Abbotsford, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Victoria, Cranbrook and other B.C. communities are generating hundreds of arrests, but they are released back onto the streets with conditions they often ignore, B.C. mayors and opposition MLAs say.

B.C. Liberal MLAs released a letter Tuesday from 13 urban mayors to Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, detailing the “prolific offenders” who police say are the main source of downtown disorder.

The mayors collected statistics to illustrate the worst cases:

• A Kelowna offender has 29 convictions and 346 RCMP files since 2016 for property crime and assault, as well as “no go” conditions for 11 businesses. “The offender is routinely released with conditions and subsequently reoffends.”

• A Nanaimo offender has 113 police files, 20 charges laid or recommended and seven convictions since 2019.

• A Prince George offender has 916 police files since 2016, 262 of them in the past 12 months, and none of the recent arrests have resulted in charges.

• Abbotsford Police are currently monitoring 81 prolific offenders with 10-29 convictions each, a 33 per cent increase since 2019. Of those, 50 are considered “super-prolific” with more than 30 convictions.

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka said he’s been to several town halls in Cranbrook, where assaults are up 13 per cent, vehicle and bike thefts are up 150 per cent and commercial break and enters are up 280 per cent. “The people are upset, and deservedly so,” Shypitka said.

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Eby said he has met with the mayors in December and asked them for the letter. He said the province is responding to a shift in crime patterns in the COVID-19 pandemic, with property crime reduced in suburban areas and downtown disorder increased.

“I don’t dispute that the pandemic has dramatically changed crime patterns, that we see this concentrated in downtown areas where people have not been, and it’s moved away from residential areas, apparently, because we’re seeing a very low number of offences,” Eby told the B.C. legislature April 26.

Eby said decisions to release people with bail or conditions are made by judges, and the B.C. government’s focus is on “complex care” facilities for people living on the streets with mental health and addictions issues.

“We also know that one of the reasons people feel unsafe is that in their downtown areas, where foot traffic is way down, mental health and addiction, people suffering in public — talking to themselves, shouting at passersby — creates a feeling of a lack of safety,” Eby said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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