(Grace Kennedy/The Observer)

Agassiz RCMP staffing in limbo over funding

The Agassiz RCMP needs another member, but Kent council thinks the province should pay for it

The Agassiz RCMP needs another member, but political back and forth over who should pay for it is leaving the position up in the air.

“Policing has always been a provincial issue,” Kent CAO Wallace Mah said. “The simple fact that the province has downloaded a lot of these provincial responsibilities to municipalities is a concern.”

In 2018, statistics from the Agassiz RCMP indicated to Kent council that it was time to bring another police officer into the community. Neither Kent nor the province wanted to pay for it.

The issue, according to CAO Wallace Mah, goes back to 2009, when Kent’s population jumped the 5,000 mark and the district became responsible for their own policing costs.

The previous year, there were 12 police officers in the Agassiz detachment, all funded by the province and the federal government. In 2009 there were still 12, but seven were paid for by B.C. and five were paid for by the district.

SEE ALSO: This Lower Mainland city wants a B.C. police force

Those numbers remained the same until 2014, when both Kent and the province increased their officer count by one.

The problem? Kent doesn’t believe the province really increased the number of officers operating out of the Agassiz detachment.

Before 2014, Agassiz had a shared officer with Hope RCMP who was responsible for educational awareness, and did work with the D.A.R.E. program in schools.

In 2014, that officer was brought over to Agassiz to become a full-time constable, assisting with calls and criminal code offences that weren’t part of the job before.

For mayor Sylvia Pranger, however, “eight plus zero is still eight,” she said.

“That’s kind of how I see it.”

Now that the needs of the Agassiz RCMP have increased once again, the district is hoping they can convince the province to “step up and fulfill what we believe they said.”

Sgt. Darren Rennie with the Agassiz RCMP declined to comment on specifics while it was still being discussed by the municipality and the province.

He did say that the RCMP provides statistics to the province and municipality on the police to population ratio, criminal case loads and the total calls for service.

According to Mah, the criminal case load is the most important indicator as to whether the RCMP needs more resources.

In a provincial report from 2017, officers in the Agassiz RCMP were said to be dealing with around 64 criminal code cases a year.

(For context, Chilliwack and Hope municipal officers deal with 80 a year, while provincial officers in Hope and Boston Bar deal with 47 and 28 a year respectively.)

RELATED: RCMP use helicopter and police dog to search for suspect on Sts’ailes First Nation

For Pranger, adding one more member to the Agassiz detachment would do a lot to alleviate the stress on current members.

“You can always say adding and adding and adding doesn’t make crime go away,” she said. “But it helps the officers if they have the numbers that can fill in.”

There’s no doubt that having an extra member would be a benefit to the Agassiz detachment, Pranger said. She’s now trying to talk to the province to get them to pay for it.

For the municipality, adding an extra member would cost around $120,000. (This covers 70 per cent of the cost — 30 per cent is paid for by the federal government — and includes things like salary, benefits, the detachment building and any support staff.)

In the district, that $120,000 represents around a two per cent tax increase for residents.

According to Mah, council would “like to bite the bullet,” but they just don’t have the funds.

“We just don’t have the tax base to fund policing on a regular basis, especially when your community, like Agassiz, is at capacity in terms of growth,” Mah said. “We’re pinched for land, and we can’t get land out of the … ALR, so we can’t grow and develop.”

“If you don’t have the people … it makes it very challenging to continue to administer all the rising costs and inflation of policing,” he added.

RELATED: New developments bring density questions to Agassiz

The district has been in conversation with the province about the issue of RCMP staffing in the community, most recently meeting with staff members for public safety minister Mike Farnworth on July 11.

Council and Kent staff are hoping to meet with Farnworth during UBCM this fall to discuss the issue further, and get a sense as to whether the province will pay for another RCMP member in the community.

“We did our part when this agreement was made,” Pranger said. “(We) believe the province should do theirs.”



grace.kennedy@ahobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

HISTORY: A curious commmunity connection between Agassiz and Pelham, Ont.

History columnist Lindsay Foreman shares her most recent story about how small Canada really is

SUV on fire on Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack

Emergency crews on scene and blocking the right lane

Widespread concerns spur UFV to halt international enrolment growth

New target hopes to limit international students to 20% of all enrolment to give time to ‘catch up’

Kent cuts ribbon on Hammersley Pump Station

The new pumps replace the 50-year-old drainage system from before

What can $4 million get you in real estate in Chilliwack vs. other places in B.C.?

A 78-acre property with a large house – or you could get a condo in Vancouver or an estate mansion in 100 Mile House

VIDEO: Harrison lights up for the holidays

The second annual Lights by the Lake kicked off Saturday, Nov. 23

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

Miller nets winner as Canucks edge Sabres 6-5 in OT

Roussel, Leivo tally two apiece for Vancouver

‘Norovirus-like’ outbreak interrupts Bantam hockey showcase in Greater Victoria

Several athletes were sent home, quarantined on the ferry

Strong turnout of volunteers to search for missing senior

Ted Vanderveen disappeared in rural Maple Ridge on Nov. 28

$578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

Over 50 per cent of Canadians admitted to using phone while driving last year, according to study

SkyTrain strike to begin Tuesday with ‘full shutdown’, CUPE says

BCRTC president says job action is ‘completely unacceptable’ to use SkyTrain users ‘as leverage’

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

Owners of hotels on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside fight $1 expropriation in court

Vancouver City Council voted to expropriate the properties for $1 each in November

Most Read