Nelson City Police: 'Down to the Marrow'
It’s not how you measure but what you measure, says Nelson City Police Chief Wayne Holland.
Holland was responding to a report from Vancouver’s Fraser Institute released this week entitled, “Police and Crime Rates in Canada, A comparison of Resources and Outcomes,” that concluded many communities across Canada are spending more on policing while crime rates are dropping.
“Real per capita police expenditures in Canada between 1986 and 2012 rose 45.5 percent while criminal code incidents per officer declined by 36.8 percent,” the report, authored by economics professor Livio di Matteo at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, said.
The 64 page report — which did not include the Nelson City Police because of its size — questioned how efficiently police forces across the country are using their resources.
In general, Holland said he agreed with the report although it covered policing in larger municipalities.
“It’s very good, very healthy. These sort of reviews are excellent and we welcome this kind of scrutiny,” said Holland.
But the fact is that the crime rate is not down in Nelson, he said, and there have been no new positions created on the 17 member force since 1995. A new police officer will be sworn in the end of October, but he will be filling a vacant position.
“We’re not down to the bone, we’re down to the marrow,” said Holland. “We haven’t even added an administrative assistant in 30 years.”
Nelson’s policing budget was about $2.9 million for 2013.
Holland added that the NCP are responsible for policing more than just Nelson residents, a sentiment shared by Mayor John Dooley.
“My general comment on police per person, every community has different needs,” the Mayor said in an email.
“Our community is a regional hub, for tourists, a place of employment, service center, social services recreation, and entertainment.
“We are no longer a one season tourist center we are four seasons. I would suggest our work load per NCP employee would be in the upper end of any force in the province, Policing needs today are much more diverse, time consuming and demanding.”
Holland estimated that on any given day the population of Nelson was at least 17,000, 7,000 more people than live inside the city limits.
The report also concluded that many police forces were overstaffed.
However, Kelowna, Moncton, and Ottawa-Gatineau, were found to have “the most efficient staffing levels with their actual numbers of police officers per 100,000 of population, substantially below what the regression (statistical) model predicted they could have,” the report stated.
Holland suggested that is because Kelowna raised taxes in 2012 to fund 22 more police officers over three years.
According to an article in the Kelowna Capital News quoting Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray, it was an expense Gray credited for the drop in crime in his city. The move, Gray said, came after a consultant reported the Kelowna RCMP were woefully under staffed, and as a result, unable to adequately clear files and do crime prevention work.
“I totally agree,” said Holland. “He’s bang on. That’s what we need to do here. If you don’t keep the pace up you’re going to hit a wall. If you put it off til later, you will pay the price.”
Holland also said that changes in policing, such as dealing with emotionally disturbed people, need to be addressed.
Nelson residents will have a chance to review an in-depth overview of Nelson’s policing needs when a report four years in the making is presented to city council October 20.
“I think Nelson residents are going to be in for a big surprise,” Holland said.