ELECTION 2015: Candidates put Chilliwack crime under the microscope

Despite a strong focus on prolific offenders by local RCMP, rampant property crime is still a big complaint in the eastern Fraser Valley.

People say putting 'more boots on the ground' — especially in the downtown core is the answer to rampant property crime. Is that the answer? The Chilliwack Progress asked 2015 election candidates that question in our ongoing series.

Despite a focus on prolific offenders by local RCMP, rampant property crime is still a big complaint across the eastern Fraser Valley.

The Chilliwack Progress continues its 2015 federal election series today, zeroing in on what really matters to people in Chilliwack-Hope.

People often say the answer to the crime problem is putting “more boots on the ground” — especially in the downtown core. Is that the answer? That’s the central question we asked the federal candidates this week.

The other part was if there was anything they could do, if elected, to increase or enhance police resources at the municipal level.

Here is the full text of their answers:

NDP candidate Seonaigh MacPherson:

As your MP, I will make public safety a top priority. That is why policing and first-responder issues are cornerstones of our local campaign.

The Harper Conservatives have let down our community. Despite their tough talk, the number of police officers on the ground has declined under their watch.

In contrast, only two weeks ago in the Fraser Valley, Tom Mulcair announced that an NDP government would invest $250 million to recruit and train new officers during our first term in office, and $100 million annually thereafter. This would put 2,500 more front-line police officers on the streets across Canada.

Additional police will help communities like Chilliwack to focus on crime prevention, not just emergency response. I am proud to be part of a team that is offering practical, concrete solutions for community safety.

As an RCMP training site, Chilliwack will benefit in multiple ways through this investment. I’ve taught RCMP trainers as a professor and know the high value the RCMP now place on improving training.

If elected, I will use my knowledge and experience – and the NDP’s commitment for more officers on the ground — to ensure improved public safety in Chilliwack-Hope.

Libertarian candidate Alexander Johnson:

Ultimately, I’d say Chilliwack should have their own Chilliwack Municipal Police or British Columbia Police like Ontario and cut ties with the RCMP – I also think the RCMP should be transitioned into Municipal or at the very least Provincial control and funding and then dissolved. But that might seem a little extreme for some people. The easy answer is Police should focus more on patrolling and protecting the people of Chilliwack and their homes – especially in areas that might be more troublesome than others – and less on non violent acts like traffic violations. Kids skateboarding in a park and smoking dope should be low on the list next to vandalism or theft. The best thing that the Federal Government can do is stay out of the way of people at home who know how to make better decisions than a small group of career politicians who work nearly all the way across the country. I would always make sure that the City’s and Province’s are in a better position to protect themselves by removing as much Federal bureaucracy as possible.

 

Conservative candidate Mark Strahl:

The Conservative Party is the only party that is serious about getting tough on crime. We believe that criminals must be held accountable for their actions and that the rights of victims should always come before the rights of criminals. Unfortunately, whenever we have passed tougher laws in order to better protect our communities, the Liberals and the NDP have opposed them.

Our Conservative government has provided unprecedented support to our law enforcement agencies, locally and right across the country. Here in Chilliwack, I was pleased to announce a $19 million federal investment in the construction of new law enforcement training facilities at the RCMP’s Pacific Regional Training Centre, which will benefit our police and our local economy.

Nationally, we created the Police Officer Recruitment Fund, invested $400 million to recruit 2,500 police officers across Canada and increased the number of RCMP officers by 1,000.

With a Conservative government, Canadians know that law enforcement agencies, locally and across the country, will always have the resources they need to do the difficult job that we ask of them.

 

Green Party candidate Thomas Cheney:

Crime is an understandable concern here in the Fraser Valley, particularly with the tragic gang-related shooting of an innocent grandfather recently in Abbotsford. Overall, the Green Party would take a preventative approach to crime focused on mitigating the conditions that cause criminality. This includes reducing poverty, restorative justice and a new approach to drug policy.

In regards to poverty, we will invest in social housing and institute a guaranteed livable income. When crimes do occur a restorative approach should be taken working on changing the offender and helping victims and communities heal. We would also repeal the mandatory minimum sentences instituted by the Conservative Party allowing judges to allocate correctional resources efficiently. However violent offenders who pose a significant danger to public safety should be incarcerated.

Treating drug use as a health issue rather than criminal justice issue would save police resources and reduce crime. This approach has been successfully applied in Portugal for over a decade.

Another way the Green Party of Canada would reduce crime is by legalizing marijuana as has occurred in Washington, Colorado, and Alaska and use the proceeds to fund drug prevention and treatment. In Canada, we spend over 400 million per year enforcing marijuana laws that merely fuel organized crime. Throwing money at enforcement is not the best policy; we need to look at the whole picture and apply evidence-based approaches to keep our streets safe.

 

Liberal candidate Louis De Jaeger:

The number of police officers in Canada has declined every year from 2010 to 2014. The Harper Conservatives have also cut important police funding/training programs as well.  Liberals support re-investing in the police recruitment fund and support communities efforts dealing with issues related with mental health.

A Liberal government will make the largest new infrastructure investment in Canadian History nearly doubling investment to $125 billion from the current $65 billion.  One third is investment in social infrastructure.

Boots on the ground might be one thing, but government can be supportive of the organizations that are already in the trenches. Understanding the causes of crime in this area help develop preventative measures.

My years of board experience on the Chilliwack Business Improvement Association, and as Chair of the Chilliwack Community Bar Watch have taught me this:  The best results are obtained when Communities take ownership and initiate partnership groups that combine resources and share ideas. Two great examples of this are Chilliwack Community Bar Watch and Chilliwack Healthier Communities.

I have had my business located in downtown for 11 years and have seen firsthand up tics and downturns in criminal activity to this area. Investment in these areas be it aesthetics or business incentives reduces the risk of becoming an inviting area for crime.

Private security firms take up much needed funds that should be budgeted for community investment. I have advocated for the use of cameras in ‘hot spot’ areas of downtown in reducing crime and saving money.

 

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