- Our Town
Minister of Justice visits leaders in Williams Lake
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Suzanne Anton was in Williams Lake Monday to talk about crime.
She met with RCMP members from a number of detachments as well as Anaham Chief Joe Alphonse, Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Anne Louie and Mayor Kerry Cook.
“I’m very impressed with the level of community involvement and community interest because fundamentally these are community issues,” Anton said after the meetings.
“The provincial government can help in a number of different ways, but the true resolutions of issues like crime come from the community. There’s a lot of engagement and thinking about how to solve those problems.”
Anton said RCMP members from 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Alexis Creek and Prince George met with her to discuss policing challenges.
“Williams Lake has had a fairly high crime rate and it’s really the issue of how to reduce that. It’s actually been reduced already, but they talked about how to bring that down. It’s not a statistic that people enjoy.”
They talked about the right kind of policing, how police service should best be deployed, and how police and community services should be marshalled in the most effective way, she said.
Police told Anton prolific offenders continue to be a problem and the existing prolific offender program could use some help.
“I will be meeting to determine how the province might be able to help out with the program,” Anton said of the prolific offender program.
Since becoming the minister of justice and attorney general, there have been ongoing discussions about the need to increase legal aid, however, Anton said not all justice is delivered through legal aid.
“There is a lot of justice we do through alternative dispute resolution through one kind or another. We are looking at innovative ways for people to achieve justice.”
A recent report by the chief judge of the provincial court indicated court times have gone down and courts are freeing up, she said.
The appointment of judges has helped with the backlog, but also the fact many impaired driving cases don’t go through criminal court anymore because of the immediate roadside suspension program.
Aside from helping with the backlog in the courts, the program is also saving lives, she said.
“We just got the latest stats and I think it’s 190 lives that have been saved as a result of the program. People don’t like to drink and drive anymore, it’s been extremely effective.”
Clayton Pecknold, assistant deputy minister and director of police services with the policing and security programs branch, also attended the meetings.
Anton said she will go back and meet with Pecknold and Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett to see what they can do to help make sure the right people are always in the room when discussions about crime and policing are taking place.
“I can hear about something for a long time, but until I actually come and see it and visit, it’s obviously much more meaningful once I’ve been here,” Anton said.
Anton also met with people in Quesnel on Monday afternoon.