The B.C. government has hired a former deputy police officer and a criminologist to investigate and report on how to best tackle the issue of repeat offenders in the province.
The move comes after weeks of mayors across the province saying they need more help handling the issues caused by a small group of "super-chronic" offenders they say are responsible for a disproportionate amount of problems in their communities.
Attorney General David Eby said repeat offenders are unlikely to take up voluntary supports for issues related to mental health and addictions, but solutions may involve compulsory participation in programs that integrate both the health and justice systems.
"Simply because we are compassionate, concerned and taking action on mental health and addiction issues does not mean that we have to accept criminal behaviour, vandalism or violence in our communities," Eby said in announcing the project.
"We agree with the mayors that creative solutions within our authority are needed. Together, we've identified and hired the experts in policing and mental health needed to investigate these trends, identify solutions and help us implement them."
Report due in fall
Eby said he expects a report to be released in early fall from the two people tasked with tackling the issue: Doug LePard, the former deputy chief of the Vancouver Police Department and Amanda Butler, a health researcher and criminologist who completed her PhD at Simon Fraser University specializing in mental health and substance use disorders.
The investigation will focus on the root causes of crimes committed by repeat offenders, and examine the feasibility of several specific recommendations already provided to the government, including:
Real-time electronic monitoring of individuals identified as chronic offenders who have been released into communities.
Identifying supports or programs that may help prevent future offences.
Forced or compulsory treatment programs for mental health and addiction issues.
Colin Basran, the mayor of Kelowna and co-chair of the B.C. Urban Mayor's Caucus, welcomed the province's action on the file, saying, "We are hopeful that the work of this report will be a catalyst for improved integration of health and justice, and offer meaningful solutions that build up the public's confidence in the administration of justice."
In a separate statement, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he is grateful action is being taken, saying that only 40 individuals in his city are responsible for over 6,300 incidents in the past year. "The vast majority of these people are experiencing extreme mental-health, substance use and housing challenges."
But the Surrey Board of Trade said it is "disappointed" in the plan, arguing the province already has solutions in hand and that preparing another report is simply delaying action.
In an interview with CBC Daybreak North earlier this week, Daniel Roy — a Prince George man who personally wracked up more than 235 encounters with RCMP in a single year and who now works for the Salvation Army — expressed skepticism about calls to crack down on repeat offenders without considering how people wound up on the wrong side of the law in the first place.
"For a lot of these individuals who are out there, they're homeless and stuck in active addiction," he said. "What we need is treatment."
"Stricter measures are not going to help anything."