Protests in the B.C. capital cost dearly in policing bucks, but it doesn’t all land on the shoulders of Victoria taxpayers.
Protests at the legislature over nine weeks between January and April cost $385,947.25 in overtime, according to the Victoria Police Department.
Since the events occurred at the B.C. Legislature, overtime costs are covered by the province, a VicPD statement said. Officers from the Greater Victoria Public Safety Unit, VicPD officers and specialized civilian staff all responded to protests in the area during that time.
Regular duty time, including response by on-duty VicPD officers, is not recoverable from the province or included in the OT figure. Starting in mid-March, VicPD limited vehicle traffic through access points to James Bay to combat “rolling protests.”
Before that, residents of the immediate James Bay neighbourhood and adjacent areas endured eight weeks of disruptions with vehicles and horns, including the use of modified air, train and ship horns.
After the establishment of patrolled access points, officers encountered daily attempts by non-local, protest-affiliated vehicles to access the area, with some drivers making multiple attempts at various access points. Cops also saw attempts by protest-affiliated individuals to establish false residency claims by renting parking spaces in the neighbourhood.
Protest events in other cities reported escalation, including confrontations with police, leading VicPD to increase its response and rely on regional partners, including Greater Victoria Public Safety Unit as well as Saanich, Central Saanich and Oak Bay police departments, to fill voids. Those costs are not borne by those communities.
VicPD reserve constables, who provide unpaid volunteer hours, are sworn peace officers working under direct supervision. They’re key to managing public events such as Canada Day, the Victoria Marathon, VicPD told Black Press Media.
Despite declared intentions by members of some protest groups to occupy the area around the legislature, the heightening of tension between protest and counter-protest groups, and impacts on nearby businesses and community members, there have been no injuries, no significant property damage and no occupation has occurred, VicPD said.
Officers have issued more than 50 tickets under the Motor Vehicle Act, as well as dozens of Notice and Order citations for vehicles and four city bylaw tickets for honking. There have been three arrests.
For weeks now, each Friday, VicPD repeats a similar refrain: Safe, peaceful and lawful protest are protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Occupation is not.
“Officers continue to respond to dangerous or unlawful acts during protests with de-escalation and enforcement,” VicPD Chief Const. Del Manak said in a statement Friday (April 29).
“Our continued thanks to James Bay area residents who have borne the brunt of the disruptions, including significant traffic disruptions and the unlawful use of vehicle horns, including modified air, ship and train horns mounted to vehicles.”
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