THE Province is creating dedicated police-prosecutor-probation officer teams to help keep communities safe by focusing on repeat violent offending throughout British Columbia.
The Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative is a key component of the Province’s Safer Communities Action Plan. Police, dedicated prosecutors and probation officers will focus on improving public safety by co-ordinating responses across the justice system and supporting better outcomes for offenders.
“We are pulling out all the stops to make sure British Columbians feel safe,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, on Tuesday. “Our government made a commitment to tackle the complex issue of repeat violent offending, and we’re backing that promise with concrete action. With the Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative, government agencies will have the resources they need to pool their expertise and work collaboratively to protect communities and help people break the cycle of offending.”
The Province is investing $25 million over three years to support:
* 21 Crown counsel and 21 other professional BC Prosecution Service professional staff to establish and support the dedicated prosecution teams;
* four full-time BC Corrections officials to develop, co-ordinate and evaluate the program;
* nine correctional supervisors;
* nine probation officers based in correctional centres for enhanced release planning; and
* 12 dedicated probation officers based in community corrections offices to support the teams.
The initiative, which will operate in every region of B.C., is already being staffed, with implementation expected to begin in April. The teams will identify cases for investigation and intervention, and provide documentation that will help prosecutors make informed decisions about charge assessments and prosecutions. Consultations are underway with Indigenous stakeholders to ensure case management is culturally appropriate.
“Repeat violent offending is a concern right across the country,” said Niki Sharma, Attorney General. “That’s why just last week we secured a federal commitment to make legislative changes to the Criminal Code that would add stronger provisions on repeat violent offenders and some firearm offences. At the same time, we’re making changes here in B.C. to strengthen enforcement and improve services to make our communities safer and healthier for everyone.”
The initiative will be enhanced by improved monitoring of violent offenders, which will focus on improving public safety through early intervention in cases involving certain people. This co-ordinated approach will assist Crown counsel in making informed decisions about charge assessments and prosecutions through improved information-sharing from investigative and supervision agencies to Crown counsel.
To help make sure people can access the supports they need, teams will provide enhanced release planning that connects them with community programs, including mental-health services, to help break the cycle of reoffending.
The Safer Community Action Plan aligns with recommendations from several community safety reports, including the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act and the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, the Province noted.
Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, Commanding Officer, B.C. RCMP, said: “Every day, police across B.C. deal with repeat violent offenders and the people and businesses impacted by their crimes. We’re looking forward to the development and implementation of the Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative and the dedicated teams who will tackle this difficult problem head on. Their work will help reduce reoffending and create a pathway for offenders to get crucial supports, allowing police to focus their resources on other public safety issues.”
Megan Dykeman, MLA for Langley East, said: “Communities across B.C. and Canada are grappling with the complex issue of repeat violent offenders. The Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative is just one of many actions we’re taking to strengthen enforcement and intervention and build safer, stronger communities for everyone. Budget 2023 also provides funding to hire more RCMP officers, create additional Indigenous Justice Centres and a historic $1-billion investment expanding mental-health and addiction services, so people can get the help they need, when and where they need it.”
Andrew Mercier, MLA for Langley, added: “The Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative is an important step forward toward advancing the Safer Communities Action Plan and strengthening public safety in B.C. These dedicated teams will have the capacity to devote continuous, expert attention to complicated cases in the justice system. Our government will continue to ensure that there are serious consequences for people who repeatedly commit violent crimes, while also strengthening services to address the root causes of these offences.”
* The LePard-Butler investigation into repeat offending and violent stranger attacks made 28 recommendations that were released on Sept. 21, 2022, and the full report was made public on Oct. 1, 2022.
* The Safer Communities Action Plan’s initiatives also include:
* $230 million over three years for provincial and specialized RCMP units;
* expanding mental-health crisis response teams into more communities so police can focus on crime, and people in crisis are met early by health-care workers and community members; and
* 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 within the existing federal law.