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Police forces content with staffing levels

Dec 15 2011

An annual Statistics Canada report detailing police resources across the country holds few surprises for local departments.

"I think it's more of a source of information for the public," said Victoria police spokesman Const. Mike Russell. "But it does give us a good sense of where we lay within Canada. We do have a lot of interaction B.C.-wide, but to see the whole gambit right across Canada paints a nice picture for us."

With 243 officers serving a population of 104,721, he said the municipality of Victoria is on an average statistical footing.

"We fit pretty much in the middle as far as police resourcing," Russell said.

Victoria has 232 officers per 100,000 people, which is the benchmark of comparison in the report. Vancouver has 1,376 officers, a ratio of 208 per 100,000 people, while Saanich has 132 per 100,000.

"Our officer-to-population ratio is a little low compared to others," said Saanich police spokesman Sgt. Dean Jantzen.

That is not to say the Saanich department is understaffed, he said. "We feel we're staffed appropriately." But the department is about to complete a new staffing plan as part of its budget submissions to council. "It's basically a staffing plan, budget and a five-year plan all wrapped up in the same package."

Corp. Darren Lagan, spokesman for the Island District RCMP, said the statistics in the report are best viewed from a wide perspective. "I think perhaps from a more global picture, like provincially, it may help. Ultimately, local leaders and local detachment commanders are looking at 'Where is the crime happening? Who's responsible for the crime?' "

The report includes the crime severity index, which accounts for the volume and seriousness of crimes committed. Crimes are weighted by the sentence they result in — the more serious the offence, the greater the effect on the index. All Criminal Code offences, including traffic offences, are taken into account. Data from 2010 is used in the report.

Victoria registered an index of 144.4, while Vancouver was at 110.4 and Saanich at 57.3. Greater Victoria, with a population of 358,478, totalled 83.7.

In the middle of this year, the index for all of Canada was 82.7, with declines noted across the country.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Public Safety and Attorney General said the Statistics Canada report is a useful tool.

"Reviewing police strengths, caseloads and costs helps all of us make informed decisions about how to deliver police services effectively and efficiently," he said.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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