Mayor Bob Wells has repeatedly stated that “Courtenay is a safe place to live,” but the statistics do not back up this claim. While our community is a far cry from the Downtown Eastside, it is undeniable that the crime rate, especially drug-related crime, is on the increase. The recent shootings speak volumes to this end.
The City’s most recent 2018 financial statement underlines the challenge when it comes to policing. Of nearly $10 million budgeted, only $8.9 million was spent. A similar pattern occurred in 2017.
Despite the RCMP staffing shortage not being filled, resulting in the surplus, year over year the policing budget has been increased. Where does this money go when unspent? Back into general revenue to be used at council’s discretion to cover any line items they may have overspent on.
It’s a fancy accounting trick, and accounted for a $1.1 million surplus in last year’s policing budget. For 2019 they are reducing the $560,183 protective services reserve to $360,200, freeing up another $200,000 for other purposes.
What this accounting bait and switch does not do, however, is address the very real need for an increased policing presence in the City of Courtenay. Our town is experiencing a very real, and steadily increasing burden on policing that is not being met.
While I am glad that Bob Wells personally feels safe in his community, there are many who I talk to that do not. Our citizens should not be intimidated by open drug use and sales in front of our public library, or worried about the constant threat of property crime in their neighbourhoods. We pay property taxes to ensure that we feel safe in our homes and in our community.
I would encourage our mayor and council to openly acknowledge that there is indeed a very real problem, and along with the RCMP, take steps to address it.
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