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NPD calls for more cash to cope with higher demands, population

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
December 10th, 2020

The city’s municipal police force’s struggle with the growing ‘shadow’ population in Nelson has it hat in hand and asking for more money from the city to cover the cost.

Although the Nelson Police Department has requested one of its smallest budget asks in years, the NPD board of directors did submit a provisional request of a 1.9 per cent increase to its annual budget.

The amount — $70,935 to a now $3.7 million budget — is necessitated due to increases in the collective agreement with NPD peace officers and an increase in summer beat hours, noted police board finance committee member Liz Edwards in a presentation to city council recently.

Two years ago the average cost per municipal officer in BC was $221,169, which is a “per capita” cost of $404 per citizen.

At NPD, with the requested 2021 budget increase, the average cost per member is approximately $200,653, or $328 per capita (based on 18.5 officers and 11,313 citizens), said Edwards in her report to council.

The city’s Development Services anticipated Nelson adding between 600 and 800 residents by 2022, she explained.

“If the core city factor was considered, and more citizens paid for the policing they receive, the per capita cost would be much lower,” Edwards said.

She also said there were increased policing costs associated to high needs population attending Nelson to use available government and community/social services

NPD chief constable Paul Burkart said wages and benefits for police staff have risen 45 per cent over the 10-year period leading into 2019. 

“Our sworn staff continue to be the lowest paid of the municipal departments,” he said in his report to council. “Over time, these increases have eroded each dollar given to us for operations and other initiatives.”

Wages and benefits currently represent approximately 89 cents out of each budget dollar for the NPD, he added, leaving very little room for the possibility of finding savings in budget.

Although there has been an increase in the sworn and civilian strength on the force since 2016, the NPD has one of the highest caseloads per member of all independent municipal departments, Burkart explained, but one of the highest clearance (solve) rates in the province.

“What is not factored into these statistics is the fact that Nelson is a core city,” Burkart’s report read.

“Our street, bridge and traffic studies have shown that we police a population of approximately 16,000 citizens (and more, depending on the season) on a daily basis. If we did factor in the core city phenomenon, that would mean a citizen per officer rate of 888 citizens as opposed to the 600.”

Two years ago the NPD’s cost per capita was the fifth lowest of the 12 municipal departments — at $335 per citizen with the average at $404 per citizen.

Criminal Code comparisons for some of the interior cities from 2017 & 2018.

The cash request is also tied to a loss of revenue for the NPD from a reduction in Keep of Prisoners program — a service agreement it had with the province to hold prisoners awaiting transfer to another jurisdiction.

The province curtailed the program when the COVID pandemic first gripped the province.

Criminal case burden per member

In 2018, Nelson’s caseload per officer — 44 per member — was the third highest in the province among other independent municipal police services, behind only Abbotsford and Victoria who were at 47 and 48, respectively.

Other departments comparable in size, Central Saanich and Oak Bay, have caseloads of 23. Both of these departments have 23 members responding to approximately 4,300 calls; NPD has 18 members responding to 6,250 calls, which translates to almost double the calls per member.

“We are in line to respond to over 6,500 calls in 2020,” said Burkart in his report.

— Source: City of Nelson

Facts and figures

• StatsCan 2018 Canadian “cop to pop” average is 185 officers per 100,000 citizens (or 540 citizens per officer). Based on that calculation, the NPD would have 21 police officers; instead it has 18 actual officers.

• Nelson Police Department works with one of the highest crime rates and the highest caseloads per officer of all 11 independent police services in BC.

• NPD polices more people than they are funded for with a daily population closer to 16,000 or 17,000 and numbers over 20,000 in the summer.

• NPD works in a city that provides significant centralized services, such as homeless shelter, breakfast and lunch programs, food banks, mental health services, child and family services and income support that can attract non-residents.

— Source: Nelson Police Department

Categories: CrimeGeneral

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