Prince George councillor pushing for dedicated homicide investigation team in northern B.C.

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Prince George city council is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to issue a letter to the North District RCMP, which represents over 40 detachments in the region, to work with upper levels of government to establish a homicide investigation team based out of Prince George. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC - image credit)
Prince George city council is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to issue a letter to the North District RCMP, which represents over 40 detachments in the region, to work with upper levels of government to establish a homicide investigation team based out of Prince George. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC - image credit)

A Prince George city councillor wants to see a dedicated homicide unit created to service B.C.'s northern communities.

Councillor Brian Skakun is leading the charge at the municipal level to ask upper levels of government to help fund an integrated homicide investigation team (IHIT) that would be based in Prince George and could handle cases that happen both in the city and in surrounding smaller communities.

This, said Skakun, would free up existing police personnel to focus on other cases.

"I think it's well warranted," said Skakun, speaking Monday on CBC's Daybreak North. His comments come just days after Prince George RCMP began investigating the year's fourth homicide.

At a regularly scheduled Monday night meeting, council will vote to approve a letter drafted by Walter Babicz, acting city manager, and intended for the North District RCMP.

The letter asks that local RCMP work with the provincial and federal governments to create an IHIT unit, similar to the one already in existence in the Lower Mainland, that would be responsible for homicides, suspicious deaths and high-risk missing person cases where foul play is suspected.

'Getting the ball rolling'

With its headquarters located in Prince George, the North District RCMP represents the upper two-thirds of the province, with over 40 detachments and 1100 RCMP employees.

The letter says the lack of an IHIT team is putting increased constraints on police services related to administrative tasks, delays in lab forensic services and limited court capacity for prosecution.

"We're getting the ball rolling and we are going to see what the RCMP and the province and the feds have to say," said Skakun.

In the Lower Mainland, the cost of IHIT is financed 70 per cent by the province and 30 per cent by Ottawa.

Babicz's letter asks both levels of government to work with RCMP management to develop a "fair funding formula" to establish an IHIT model in Prince George.

"If we do that together, it shouldn't cost too much," said Skakun.

According to Skakun, the idea stemmed first from a conversation with Prince George RCMP Superintendent Shaun Wright after he was invited to speak in March at a standing committee on intergovernmental resolutions meeting, of which Skakun is a member.