(Victoria Buzz)

The BC government says it’s taking steps to address prolific offenders, hiring two experts to investigate necessary actions to curb an uptick in random violent attacks across the province.

A report released in April by the British Columbia’s Mayors’ Caucus (BCUMC) found crime patterns are shifting and hurting downtown retail areas more than ever, despite an overall decrease in crime throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

BC officials say meetings with local and provincial police have confirmed these trends and pointed to the separate issue of violent attacks in some city centres, including Victoria.

The BCUMC report highlighted the “catch and release” justice cycle and data showing that when arrested, repeat offenders often go uncharged or are promptly released on bail with no conditions. 

In its report, the BCUMC cited 204 offenders from 10 urban cities, including Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, and Nanaimo, who together have racked up over 11,500 police reports.

In Victoria specifically, one offender generated 248 police incidents locally and across Vancouver Island, with 55 charges submitted to the BC Prosecution Service and 22 convictions received. Charges ranged from theft to assault.

Recently, VicPD issued a warning after a woman was randomly attacked from behind in James Bay last Saturday. The woman, who was walking her dog at the time of the attack, suffered head and facial injuries.

According to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who also serves as BCUMC co-chair, the caucus found mental health, substance use and treatment as “one of the most critical issues facing our communities.”

“We know that some, not all, prolific offenders experience mental-health and substance-use challenges, and for these individuals, a path to care and treatment is needed to address the root cause of the problem,” said Helps.

She says it will take “through courageous leadership” and cooperation of all levels of government to find solutions of adequate care and consequences that will address prolific-offender crime in BC cities.

“This investigation is an important first step, and we are encouraged about the path today’s announcement puts us on,” added Helps.

Attorney General David Eby says the government agrees with the mayors’ caucus that solutions are needed to address alarming crime patterns, particularly in city centres.

“We all have to live together, and recovery from the pandemic for hard-hit retailers and downtowns through safety and accessibility for everyone is part of ensuring British Columbia remains one of the best places in the world to live,” said Eby.

“Together, we’ve identified and hired the experts in policing and mental health needed to investigate these trends, identify solutions and help us implement them.”

The investigation will be completed by health researcher and criminologist Amanda Butler and former Vancouver PD deputy chief Doug LePard, who also served as Metro Vancouver Transit police chief, according to the government.

BC officials say the pair will prepare a report with recommendations as part of the investigation, to be released publicly in early fall.

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