By BILL SARAI
City councillor, Kamloops
IN MY FIRST council column of the year, I would like to wish everyone a very happy and healthy new year. As most people start the year with resolutions, my resolution for 2022 is on behalf of our city.
This resolution is directed at the various provincial and federal ministries to work in collaboration to return crime-fighting tools to our local police, Crown counsels and judges.
Kamloops council has made numerous requests for this to happen so there will be consequences and accountability for those committing crimes.
One of the hot topics during my first year in council was the rash of property crime, notably in the early hours of the morning. Not only is this still occurring, but it has escalated and become worse.
In recent months, when I have been out during my daily routine or on city business, discussions with residents and business owners always turn to the drastic increase in all levels of crime.
Threats of violence have increased and break and enters to vehicles, homes and businesses are reported to the police daily, shared on social media and sent via email to council.
Recently, Coun. Mike O’Reilly and I were approached by six or seven prominent business owners in our city who voiced their frustration on these very issues.
When we are given the opportunity to say what the city is doing about this matter, we explain we are up against the federal and provincial judicial systems
Recent Supreme Court of Canada cases have, unfortunately, shifted the pendulum of justice further toward that of favouring criminals.
I have been told judges are not allowed to impose any types of conditions on release before trial, meaning essentially no curfew or restrictions of any kind.
The Crown has 18 months from the date of laying a charge, to get a criminal in front of a judge for trial, lest the charges are dropped.
This puts added pressure on our police force to make sure they have convincing evidence in place before forwarding it to Crown for charge consideration.
Understandably so, this is why we get upset when we read or hear about a crime being committed and then learn the people arrested are back on the street, sometimes the very same day.
A perfect example of this is a recent arrest of a couple in a pickup truck on the streets of Kamloops with a package of drugs and a shotgun.
They were both released the same day with no charges laid at that time because the gun and drugs must be sent away to a crime lab to determine if they are truly drugs and an actual unlawful firearm.
This process to do this could take between eight and 10 months to complete.
These types of delays take a major toll on our police and Crown prosecutors. As city councillors, we hear about similar issues daily.
Council has set up meetings in the past with our local MP, MLAs, RCMP, the Crown and business improvement associations to better understand and share in the obstacles facing Mounties and the Crown to do their jobs effectively and protect our citizens and businesses from crime.
We as council have a future meeting set up with Attorney General David Eby to continue to voice our concerns and are hoping he can finally reach out to other provincial attorneys general to push for the Supreme Court of Canada to reverse applicable case laws, which will then shift the judicial pendulum back to where it belongs.
As a City councillor, the one common theme I keep hearing from business owners and residents is they keep getting told by police when officers do attend is there is nothing they can do.
This occurs after businesses have been instructed to spend thousands of dollars on security cameras, lighting and fencing.
They have done what they have been told to do and what they feel they need to do. It is now time for the police to be given the ability do what they need to do.
Some of these recent break and enters are seriously affecting the ability of businesses to remain open. These are businesses that are pillars of our community and have stayed open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic challenges.
These are businesses into which families have put their life savings to serve the community and it is our duty as mayor and council to ensure we support them as best we can.
We are not trying to point fingers; we are reaching out for assistance and direction.
Working together, we can all do better for our city.
Bill Sarai is a Kamloops councillor and can be reached at email@example.com. This column was originally published in Kamloops This Week.