B.C.’s minister of public safety and solicitor general hopes a new integrated community safety initiative (ICSI) will strengthen collaboration among justice, health and social service partners to better address the roots of crime and violence in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
Minister Mike Morris was in Williams Lake Tuesday to announce a commitment to spend up to $500,000 of civil forfeiture grant funding to support the program.
“In the Blue Ribbon Panel on Crime Reduction report released in December 2014 there was a model on engaging communities in policing and crime prevention so this is a direct result of that,” Morris told the Tribune, after he made the announcement and met for the first time with the newly-formed ICSI steering committee.
The committee involves local community leaders as well as First Nations Chiefs from the surrounding Tsilhqot’in communities, as well as Williams Lake Indian Band, Alkali Lake and Soda Creek First Nations, Morris said.
“I am trying to find some way to engage the communities. Every community is unique and I’m trying to get them engaged and take ownership of what is going on in their communities.”
The police are merely a resource available to communities to help them establish law and order, but the main responsibility rests with the communities, Morris added.
“This steering committee will be going out and talking to everyone. I don’t want to spend money on a program or service without any end result so I am looking at the steering committee to develop initiatives that will give ownership back to the communities in determine the peace and order in the community.”
Morris also wants the action taken slowly, so that building blocks are in place and things are well thought out with a long-term vision that fits the communities.
Community leaders will work with each community, he added.
“Joe Alphonse as Chief of Anaham will be part of the process in determining what the vision is for Anaham and how they are going to bring law and order and peace back to that particular community and what kinds of resources they need to do that. I have spoken with all the chiefs and had meetings with a couple of them, but I think we have buy in from everybody.”
Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb said the program is something everyone have been working toward for quite some time.
“There is shared recognition of the need for more collaboration between agencies to address crime and violence across the region,” Cobb said.
“The inclusive approach of the ICSI recognizes these issues don’t stop at the edge of the city or a particular First Nation, and I look forward to additional services, co-ordination and community safety as a result of this initiative.”
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, meanwhile, said she thinks the integrated community safety initiative will promote attention and expertise toward gang and violent crime issues within the community.
“We are fortunate to have strong, local organizations working to make our communities safer,” Barnett said.
Morris said taking ownership of law and order is not about being vigilantes, but determining a level of safety and tranquility within communities.
“The public often lives in fear because they feel threatened by street level gangsters, but the way to deal with that is to inform the police,” Morris added.
The $500,000 in government funding is expected to last up to two years and is in addition to the $23-million expansion of B.C.’s Guns and Gangs strategy announced on April 15, 2016, by Premier Christy Clark.
In 2014 Williams Lake ranked first in violent crime severity among more than 300 Canadian municipalities with a population over 10,000.