After calls from northern and rural British Columbia communities to reinforce policing, the province unveiled a plan to hire 277 more police officers targeting communities with 5,000 or fewer residents.
Although details on which municipalities will get the new recruits have yet to be announced, it was a “record” commitment in the province’s $230 million Safer Communities Fund.
“It’s a record investment in this province, in fact probably the largest in its history,” said provincial public safety minister Mike Farnworth. “The goal is to ensure that those positions get filled and that will take some of the pressure off.”
Northern communities have long gone underfunded and understaffed when it comes to law enforcement, as many struggle to deal with an uptick in property and other crime.
As reported by True North last week, residents in Taylor, BC gathered for a town hall recently and called on more policing resources. Taylor, which has a population of under 2,000 people is located just outside of Fort St. John along the Alaska Highway. It shares policing resources with a number of other rural communities in the vicinity and does not have a dedicated town force.
“Two members at the most to cover this huge area we feel, in Taylor, is not enough,” said Taylor mayor Brent Taillefer.
“So if we need to increase provincial policing and that means they need to collect money through taxation to do so for the rural areas, I believe that people are OK with spending a little more money to see more police.”
Last year Prince George saw a reported 22% increase in crime, according to RCMP statistics.
Statistics Canada data also shows that the crime rate in rural communities is on average 23% higher than the urban crime rate.
Rural residents have been asked to take extra precautions including installing security cameras, motion sensor lights and keeping an eye out for suspicious behaviour.
Conservative MP Shannon Stubs recently brought up the issue of rural crime in the House of Commons.
“I think of my own constituents and those of other rural MPs facing record levels of ever more brazen and violent theft and robberies, trespassing, assaults and murders,” said Stubbs on Feb. 2.