Rising crime in Peel has some regional councillors supporting $46M police budget increase

Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah says his force is the 'most progressive in Canada.' (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah says his force is the 'most progressive in Canada.' (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A request by Peel Regional Police for a $45.9-million increase in their 2023 budget is getting support from regional councillors who are worried about rising crime — even some who are usually skeptical about handing police more money.

The increase would put the police operating budget at $524.6 million for this year. Police say they'll use the money, in part, to hire an additional 70 officers and 50 civilian professionals. A vote on the budget could come as early as this coming Thursday.

"We are probably 303 officers short from just breathing easy across this region," said Chief Nishan Duraiappah during a presentation to Peel's regional council this week.

The request comes at a time when calls about crimes like carjackings, car thefts, shootings and assaults are on the rise in the region west of Toronto, which includes Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon. Peel also has fewer police officers than other municipalities relative to its growing population, Duraiappah said.

He said over the last five years, there has been a 76 per cent growth rate in 911 calls and 911 operators are currently responding to an average of 1,700 calls a day. It's taking longer to respond to lower priority calls, sometimes a whole day, he said, warning that the investment in the force must happen now or response times will get even worse.

'Is it enough?'

The request is also coming amid calls from some critics to cut police budgets and spend more money on other services that they say will build healthier communities.

But Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who campaigned in the last election on more support for public safety, including through policing, said, "My question with the budget is not is the ask too much."

Instead, he asked: "Is it enough?"

Brown said the number one thing he hears from residents is police are not responding to 911 calls quickly enough.

"In a region like Peel region, as advanced as we are, in a country like Canada, to not be able to get someone on the phone at 911 is unacceptable."

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

Duraiappah said 10 of the new civilian hires would be put to work answering  911 calls. He said the proposed additional uniformed officers would still probably not make a huge dent in wait times on lower priority calls like auto thefts, but it would be a step forward.

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said she wants police to have what they need to do the job properly.

"Mississauga is one of the safest cities in Canada and continues to be so, but we want to keep it that way," she told the regional council

Duraiappah has described the Peel Regional Police Service as "the most progressive in the country," and has pointed to increased partnerships with community agencies and moves to allow non-uniformed professionals to respond to certain mental health calls.

Coun. Carolyn Parrish, who represents Ward 5 in Mississauga, has been critical of police requests for more money in the past. But even she seemed open to a hike in the budget, saying she is encouraged by moves to modernize the force and work with other groups on non-traditional responses to mental health, intimate partner violence and youth strategies.

"I will support an increase even though I believe that social services will save more kids from crime and save more of them from becoming adults involved in crime," she said.

"My hope is the more sophisticated our officers and our policing get the fewer actual bodies you need," said Parrish.

Other priorities left behind, resident warns

But at least one citizen CBC News spoke to doesn't share those views.

Rahul Mehta, a Mississauga resident and an advocate for progressive causes, says he'd rather see that kind of money spent elsewhere. He said he's concerned about cuts and underfunding in areas he thinks would build safer communities, like affordable housing, transit and other services.

More police boots on the ground aren't the answer, Mehta said.

Submitted by Rahul Mehta
Submitted by Rahul Mehta

"To pour so much more money into a department that has shown no clear correlation between a decrease in crime and increase in safety due to these budgets, it is a huge disservice to the population of Peel," he said.

"For every other department, if they don't achieve their metric, they get a cut," Mehta added.

"There's no measure in the budget. Nothing is tied to outcomes."