Martin Barker has been the victim of crime many times in Duncan.
The former Duncan city councillor said his office, house and truck have been broken into, friends and relatives have been physically attacked and local residents face the scourge of discarded needles around the city every day.
Barker said he will speak to Duncan’s city council at it’s regular meeting on June 19 to suggest that the city and the local RCMP form a task force with the sole aim of reducing drug use and related crimes in the area.
He said the task force could be funded from the city’s police-bridging capital fund, which is money Duncan has been saving every year in preparation for when its population exceeds 5,000 people.
Once that happens, and it’s expected to happen in the coming years, Duncan will have to take on a lot more financial responsibilities for the local RCMP force.
For communities with less than 5,000 people, the province pays 70 per cent of policing costs but recovers a portion of the costs from municipalities through a police tax levy, with Ottawa paying the remaining 30 per cent.
Once Duncan’s population exceeds 5,000, the city must assume 70 per cent of policing costs, with Ottawa still picking up the rest of the tab.
“The city has chosen to use these funds until its population exceeds 5,000 to undertake infrastructure projects, but I will be arguing that it should be used to help pay for the task force,” Barker said.
“Inspector Ray Carfantan (from the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment) has been lobbying to add four more officers to the detachment so we could take these new officers, maybe add a social worker, and create the task force.”
Barker also wants Island Health to hire 24/7 security at its impending new temporary overdose prevention site that will be set up somewhere in the Cowichan Valley this summer, as well as an increased police presence around it.
“I think the leadership is making an effort, but not enough is being done to help the regular people around here who have to bear the weight of the addictions of others,” he said.
“This city is on the verge of vigilantism to deal with the crime issue, so I think the creation of a task force will show real leadership.”
Duncan mayor Phil Kent said the money in the police-bridging fund has already been accounted for in the city’s five-year financial plan.
He said the types of infrastructure projects that are funded from it, like dikes along the Cowichan River to prevent flooding in that area, are much needed and the funding would likely have to be borrowed to pay for them if not for the money from the police-bridging fund.
Kent also said the city does not decide how the local RCMP detachment uses its resources, and any decisions regarding the development of a task force would only come about after extensive consultations with the police force and other groups.
But Kent said, ultimately, any decision on whether to move forward on the idea of the creation of the task force would be one made by the whole of council.
“It’s a very complex question,” he said.
Local activist Sarah Senkow and a group she helped form earlier this week also want action to deal with growing crime and drug issues locally.
They plan a protest march on June 23 that will wind its way from the Cowichan Secondary’s Quamichan campus to Cowichan Secondary School, beginning at 11 a.m.