The BC Government is launching a new Safer Communities Action Plan with the goal to strengthen enforcement for repeat offenders.
The new measures are in response to the rise in repeat violent offending, which the province linked to unintended impacts of federal law changes and subsequent Supreme Court decisions, and increased mental health and addiction challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier David Eby said the plan has two key tracks.
“One around enforcement, recognizing that we have zero tolerance for violence in our communities, making sure that people are protected,” Eby said.
“The second track around intervening, helping people break the cycle of life in and out of jail, preventing crime before it happens, intervention services that recognize the root causes of crime.”
The new measures involved in the Safer Communities Action Plan include:
- Launching new repeat violent offender co-ordinated response teams, made up of police and dedicated prosecutors and probation officers.
- Expanding mental-health crisis response teams into more communities so police can focus on crime, and people in crisis are met early on by health-care workers and community members.
- Opening 10 new Indigenous Justice Centres to provide culturally appropriate support for Indigenous Peoples involved in the justice system to address the root causes of their involvement in the justice system and help them break the cycle.
- Going after the houses, cars and luxury goods of high-level organized criminals who profit on misery by introducing “unexplained wealth order” legislation in spring 2023.
- Building public confidence in the prosecution system with new direction from the attorney general to prosecutors to implement a clear and understandable approach to bail for repeat violent offenders within the existing federal law. (effective Tuesday)
Additionally, the province will be creating a new model of addictions at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
According to the province, this plan complements the BC-led action with other provinces and territories to pressure the federal government to address the consequences of changes to the federal bail system.
“These aren’t problems we’re going to solve overnight, but they are problems where we are going to show progress, where we have to show progress, where British Columbians expect it,” Eby said.
“There are smaller centres across the province that are facing huge strain, especially hub cities.”
Eby added the province is investing $3 million per year to expand virtual bail hearings across the province.
“People don’t have to travel to Prince George or Williams Lake or Trail or Kamloops or Kelowna for a bail hearing, and potentially be released in stuck in that community, homeless with no contacts,” Eby explained.
“They do the bail hearing from their home community. This is better for their community, it’s better for them to be in a community where they have connections.”
The full action plan can be found here.