Williams Lake city council is taking a bold step to tackle crime.
Led by Mayor Walt Cobb and City Councillor Scott Nelson, the City is asking the provincial government to support round-the-clock electronic monitoring for prolific offenders and others out on bail or probation.
The move comes after the recent sentencing of a wildfire looter in the Williams Lake provincial courts and is unanimously supported by all members of council, who penned a letter this week to the Provincial Court of British Columbia, the Attorney General David Eby and the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnsworth pushing for the use of electronic ankle bracelets.
“We have come to the end of our tether as far as putting up with people getting away with multiple crimes,” Mayor Walt Cobb said Tuesday. “We had someone break into our house one time who had been in court 72 times in 18 years. That is ridiculous.”
Noted for its recurring status as a crime capital, Williams Lake leaders have proactively been trying to reduce crime for years, Cobb said, but added the summer’s wildfires brought to everyone’s attention there were offenders awaiting trial with multiple charges out in the community.
In 2017, the RCMP did more than 850 checks on offenders who were out of jail on conditions, Cobb said, pointing out the strain on policing resources.
“That’s not a good use of police time,” Cobb said. “If we had the offenders wearing tracking anklets and they breached their conditions and went where they shouldn’t, an alarm would go off.”
City Councillor Scott Nelson said when individuals don’t comply with their bail or probation conditions, the risk they will offend is increased.
“Last year there were 320 fails to appear on conditions of breaches and curfews. If they are not where they are supposed to be, then they are running around our communities and getting lost in the system.”
A new new electronic supervision program to track criminal offenders called Buddi Ltd. has been used in some communities in B.C. so why not Williams Lake? Nelson asked.
“In 2016, Mike Farnsworth came out and endorsed it as the NDP public safety critic,” Nelson said. “Now that the NDP are in government, we are encouraging them and asking the minister to help us make our community a much safer place.”
Williams Lake Insp. Jeff Pelley said the RCMP are committed to enhancing the accountability of offenders on conditions before the courts and increasing community safety.
“We will continue to work with community stakeholders to ensure new technology and viable options can be pursued legally within the judicial system,” he said. “We are currently exploring new options and existing technology with our Crown Counsel and Community Correction partners involving the newer electronic monitoring system to determine if it is feasible in Williams Lake and can be applied for through the court system.”
In February 2016, city council proposed the use of GPS tracking, including a call for inject-able chips in response to an afternoon armed robbery of a teenager at the Boitanio skate park.
This time, the call is simply for electronic anklets.
“This technology has been tested in Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and the U.S. and in B.C. it is already operational, but not here in Williams Lake,” Nelson said.
The monitoring devices will give the RCMP one more tool to help reduce crime and keep track of prolific offenders, some of which have 200 charges against them, Nelson added.
“We are not giving up, but gearing up.”
Pelley said the RCMP continue to work within their enforcement strategies to ensure compliance of bail conditions, sentences or the prevention of new offences with full accountability to the court system.
“I am aware of offenders being arrested, charged and released following bail hearings,” Pelley said.