Mayor Bob Simpson says Quesnel City Council and taxpayers have done their part to address crime by adding both RCMP officers and bylaw officers to combat crime, but he says their efforts are being stymied.
“Our RCMP officers, sometimes in partnership with our bylaw, actually catch offenders and sometimes catch them in the act only to find out that the crown isn’t going to prosecute, or if they do prosecute, the individuals are let back into our community fairly quickly. It’s very frustrating for Council to see our tax dollars go into what we can do to increase public safety in our community, only to see the ball dropped when it gets into the court system.”
Simpson says this lenient approach, particularly when it comes to offenders with mental health issues or addictions, is not sustainable.
“The problem with that approach is that you’re not resourcing the issue, we’re not seeing any increase in supports for individuals with mental health or addictions issues. And you’re also discounting the harm to the community, and you’re discounting the harm to the victims of the crimes that these people commit.”
He says it also creates a backlash against these offenders.
“If they do need help, people would like to see them get help, but if they just keep getting off every time they commit a crime then people will just simply get angry, and we’ll see vigilantism to address the issue.”
As for what people can do to address the problem, Simpson says there is a backlash going on around the country, including in Williams Lake where petitions are circulating, but he says it doesn’t seem to be having any effect.
“It seems that the powers that be are listening to those who say you shouldn’t prosecute, but at the same time they’re not adding the resources to assist those who aren’t being prosecuted to go on a different path, to address the mental health issues, to address their addiction issues so that they’re not turning to criminality in order to feed their habit.”
Simpson says ultimately it’s the federal and provincial government that need to be held accountable.