Wilkinson promises more police, prosecutors and court upgrades

Liberals pledge to team police with psychiatric nurses to help mentally ill

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson says his party would work to decrease crime in B.C. while helping the disadvantaged and mentally ill.

He said if his party forms the next provincial government it would develop effective community policing and invest in integrated police and mental health teams to free up police resources to deal with growing street disorder.

Wilkinson said violent and gang crime has been increasing.

“We shouldn’t have to live in fear,” he said October 7.

He said Vancouver experienced a 21% increase in aggravated assaults and assaults with weapons and a 50% increase in break-ins between January and August.

Vancouver Police Department statistics show all assaults to the end of August up 2.9%.

And, break and enters are up 21.9% but total property crime generally down 17.8%. Violent crime generally is up 0.5%. June statistics showed commercial break-and-enters up 4.3%.

Key to tackling the issue, Wilkinson said, is teaming up police with social workers or psychiatric nurses to attend calls not dealing with violence or disturbances. With those health-care workers able to take care of issues where needed, more police would be freed up to handle serious crimes.

He pledged $58 million to hire such health professionals.

He said the Liberals would expand public safety models already operational in Vancouver, Kamloops, and Surrey by increasing capacity with 100 more psychiatric social workers or nurses and 200 more police officers.

But, a Liberal backgrounder said the party would pause Surrey’s transition from the RCMP to a municipal force “to provide accountability and transparency, and give the people of Surrey the final say through a referendum.”

The party further pledged to increase addiction-treatment and recovery programs, and to ensure those wanting help getting off drugs “have a clear pathway to treatment.”

And, pledges included an increase the number of B.C. hospital nurses trained to conduct medical and forensic exams for sexual assault, so that victims are not forced to travel to other hospitals.

Moreover, Wilkinson said, a Liberal government would hire 40 more provincial prosecutors to speed up the handling of cases in the courts.

And, he said, his party would work with the courts “to adopt technology innovations to reduce COVID-19 related backlogs and conduct trials more effectively and quickly, in order to expedite decisions, reduce trial delays and ensure timely justice for criminals.”

The courts having been severely restricted in their activities due to the pandemic. However, the pandemic highlighted technological shortcomings and such innovations are already moving forward as the province’s three top courts work with the Ministry of Attorney General and the province’s legal profession regulator.

Among other pledges, the Liberals made include:

• protecting against domestic violence by adopting the “Clare’s Law” in place in other jurisdictions, making violent criminal histories open to vulnerable members of the public;

• working with the police and prosecutors to reduce crime and improve public safety, by vigorously enforcing the ban on unsafe roadside panhandling and adopting a zero-tolerance approach to illegal street-racing;

• work with police to ensure consistent province-wide notification of victims’ families upon the release of perpetrators;

• working with police and prosecutors to make our communities safer by aggressively cracking down on gangs;

• working with police and prosecutors to prosecute those transporting illegal handguns in cars, including seizure of vehicles;

• ensuring victim services and supports are easily accessible, and;

• working to address issues of systemic racism in our society and institutions.

The election is October 24.