Northern B.C. homicide unit wins Prince George city council support

·2 min read

Prince George city council voted unanimously to join a campaign to form a special police unit dedicated solely to solving murders in Northern B.C.

It would work like the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team that's been operating in the Lower Mainland for years. Along with homicides, IHIT also investigate suspicious deaths and missing persons cases where foul play is suspected.

Coun. Brian Skakun said Prince George RCMP Supt. Shawn Wright first raised the idea in March when he met with council's standing committee on intergovernmental resolutions. He said the local detachment typically assigns six to eight members to investigate homicides each year.

"If we can get this team off the ground, then our local detachment would be able to free up other members to cover other duties," Skakun said.

The team would also represent a cost savings for Prince George. While the city covers 90 per cent of the cost of running the Prince George RCMP detachment, the share would decline to 70 per cent with the federal government picking up the rest of the tab under the model now used in the Lower Mainland.

Municipalities with populations less than 15,000 pay 70 per cent of their policing costs.

"There's a provincial homicide team in the North and then the larger municipalities deal with these investigations on their own, so everything's kind of siloed," Wright told council. "So this would really be pooling the resources to enhance both capacity for investigations and perhaps the opportunity to reduce those costs to the 70-30 cost-sharing model."

Coun. Cori Ramsay said the smaller municipalities could raise a concern that they could see their costs rise as a result and that some advocacy work would have to be done to bring them on board.

Wright said he understands that councils in Fort St. John, Prince Rupert and Terrace have signed letters of support for the move and several other communities will be submitting letters as well.

Coun. Garth Frizzell noted the RCMP has suggested municipalities set aside up to two-and-a-half per cent of the policing budget as Mounties move to unionize and in light of that, suggested a separately-funded unit "could have more impact down the road."

Council voted to send a letter of support to North District RCMP to pass on to the federal and provincial governments.

The move comes just days after the city saw its fourth homicide of the year. Police have said a man died in hospital on April 22 from injuries suffered in a 900-block Carney Street home that was also the scene of a drug seizure on Apr. 1.

As of Tuesday, no arrests have been made in any of the four homicides this year.

Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen