Williams Lake city council wants a prolific offender program back in Williams Lake as soon as possible, however, the RCMP say the program is still active in the city.
At the regular council meeting Tuesday, Surinderpal Rathor asked council to endorse finding funds as soon as possible for a program that would identify individuals responsible for using weapons, such as machetes and bear spray, and that they be dealt with accordingly. Council also passed a motion to set up a meeting with Williams Lake RCMP Inspector Warren Brown.
“Last week my phone started ringing off the hook with people telling me they are afraid to go out. They were telling me that people are using weapons during the day. People are calling the police. It’s the same people that are committing the crimes day after day.”
The Williams Lake RCMP told the Tribune the Prolific Offender Program is still up and running. It’s never stopped, despite the withdrawal of funding from government in June 2012.
“Locally it was .4 of a human resource position so what’s essentially happened is ourselves and the other agencies that are involved with the prolific offender program have continued with it, as it was, prior to June, and are doing it off the side of our desk. Instead of that .4 person doing the administrative work, the RCMP have taken that on,” Staff Sgt. Ken Brissard said Wednesday.
At the end of the day, the RCMP and the other partners involved in the program, saw value in the initiative so they’ve continued with it. Nothing’s changed other than the funding component.
“We meet regularly and had our prolific offender meeting yesterday. I believe right now we have 12 who are identified and know they’ve been identified as prolific offenders. We reach out to them to try and offer them assistance, “Brissard said, explaining two of the 12 have been “voted off the list by the group.” One because he has been relocated and the other because of his inactivity.
“It’s a success story. Can we attribute that 100 per cent to the fact that he was in the prolific offender program? No. There’s nothing to say that because of the program he’s changed his behaviour, but I know it’s helped.”
Brissard admitted he’s an optimistic person that sees the “glass half full”, and “yes” there are ebbs and flows in crime rates in Williams Lake.
“Essentially the way we’ve put it here in the last few months is that we’ve had a perfect storm. We had a group of about 12 people all out of jail at once. I’m not minimizing that, but I think you have to say it’s a small percentage that create havoc for the mass majority. You make your own luck and we were lucky because we’ve got some naughty people behind bars again.”
A core group of agencies working in areas such as probation, housing and mental health team up with the RCMP to administer the program, all “bringing something to the table.”
ion of B.C. Municipalities conference mayor and council met with Minister of Justice Shirley Bond and asked if funding would be restored for prolific offender programs.
In a letter dated Oct. 11, Bond wrote to council that her ministry staff will explore if options exist for restoring funding and will contact the city. So far the city has not heard back.
Rathor said the provincial government has equal responsibility for the citizens of Williams Lake as the city does. He wanted staff to get on the phone first thing Wednesday morning to set up a meeting.
“To me safety is more important than anything else. Why are we putting money into sidewalks when safety should be our first priority,” he said.
The RCMP would welcome restored funding for prolific offender programming because the funding will ease up funds for other programming, Brissard said.