On the heels of an RCMP crackdown on weapons and drugs in the Okanagan, the province has released a report to make communities safer.
The authors of a government-commissioned report into prolific offenders in B.C. are calling for a far greater focus on mental health and substance use resources. Retired Police Chief Doug LePard and Simon Fraser University Criminologist Amanda Butler released the executive summary and recommendations of their investigation on Wednesday (Sept. 21). The two were tasked by the province in May with exploring solutions to repeat offenders – most often individuals who are charged and then released with conditions, only to commit crimes again.
The issue is well-known to Kelowna residents.
“We hear, know and share our residents’ frustrations,” said Mayoral Imcumbent Colin Basran, co-chair of the BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus (BCUMC). “From repeat property offenders, and in some of our communities, the unprovoked random attacks, these crimes have a deteriorating impact on our residents’ sense of safety and their confidence in the justice system.”
Basran added the BCUMC fully supports the recommendations made in the report.
“Today’s announcement is a path towards actions and results for improved public safety, crime reduction, and increased support for those most vulnerable in our communities,” he said.
In their four months of consultations and research, LePard and Butler said it became clear to them that there needs to be an overall investment in mental health and long-term care to reduce individual’s interactions with the justice system. They are recommending that the province continues to move toward more civilian-led mental health crisis response teams, as an alternative to police.
“We are pleased to see a number of recommendations capture the concerns we raised for our communities, but none more so than the recommendations where health and justice intersect, including the immediate work by the province on a dedicated provincial committee structure for coordinated service planning,” added Basran.
The authors also suggest the creation of three different types of units: crisis response and stabilization units where current, past or possible future offenders can access high-quality mental health and substance use care, either by walk-in or by transportation by ambulance, fire or police; low secure units for people who are at a serious risk of violence and require long-term supports; and, custom-built units or facilities for incarcerated people with chronic or acute mental health needs.
Butler and LePard’s full report will be released later this month.
with files from Jane Skrypnek