City wants policing formula changed

With the RCMP policing contract currently under negotiation between federal and provincial agencies some municipalities are clamouring to have their voices heard regarding what policing is costing them and the impact it’s having on their bottom lines.

The City of Williams Lake is concerned that policing costs have grown, according to a 2011 budget report, to $3.5 million annually and will eat up 21 per cent of its budget in 2011 under the current funding formula that sees municipalities sized between five and 15,000 pay 70 per cent of cost with the feds picking up 30 per cent.

The City funds 24 municipal members at the detachment as well as covering related policing costs.

The City recently wrote a letter to Premier Christy Clark in support of the District of Kent’s position regarding muncipal policing costs and the need for a more equitable cost-sharing formula for communities of the above size.

According to City data, the cost of the policing contract in Williams Lake has increased 11 per cent since 2008 from $2.7 million.

Brian Carruthers, Williams Lake’s chief administrative officer, says the cost of policing has been a long-standing concern for many municipalities. Specific to Williams Lake is that a portion of calls for policing come from outside the City boundaries where residents, like those in the CRD, pay a small portion of the costs and other areas from which residents migrate to the City and commit crimes may not contribute anything at all.

“A very high percentage of prolific offenders that we deal with do not reside in Williams Lake,” he says. “They are from outside communities and that’s significant ... So the argument could be made that if all we were doing is policing our citizens that live within the City of Williams Lake we probably wouldn’t need 24 RCMP officers and so this is a situation for many communities that are hub communities.”

Carruthers says the City would like to see this issue addressed through a “more equitable” cost-sharing agreement that he suggests could see the 70 per cent municipal cost threshold lowered or the use of a base grant and per capita grant system like occurs in Alberta.

“Our concern is our policing costs are disproportionately high compared to the other services we provide,”  he says. “There needs to be some recognition that the policing demands of our community are not always generated by our community and that there needs to be some kind of assistance from the province.”

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says she’s been hearing similar concerns as she’s travelled with the Liberal government’s rural caucus.

Barnett says the province’s Solicitor General Shirley Bond is aware of the issue and that it’s a concern to the province as well. She says the province would like to see more participation from the federal government but says there’s a lack of dollars. When asked about the provincial government providing more funding she points again to a lack of dollars.

Barnett was not aware of whether any of the RCMP contract negotiations were considering a change in the existing funding formula.

She says municipalities do get a portion of traffic fines paid within the municipality back.

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