Community safety, particularly in the downtown, continues to be at the forefront of discussions in Campbell River, as it is in many communities across Canada.
Community Safety and Downtown Revitalization are top priorities for Council. The City is working to foster a safe, comfortable, and inclusive environment so that all residents and visitors can use and enjoy public spaces.
The City hears feedback from residents, businesses, and visitors that increasing rates of crime in the downtown create discomfort, can result in unsafe or disruptive behaviours, and causes members of the public to avoid certain locations, which inhibits their enjoyment and comfort within the community. Mayor, Council, and City leadership share many of the concerns voiced by residents relating to the complex challenges facing our community, including mental health, addictions, and homelessness, and are committed to taking action to address them.
What Council has done, is doing and continues to do:
The City is actively working with law enforcement, other levels of government, and community partners on a range of initiatives that advance Council’s Strategic Priority: Healthy and Safe Community.
Investing in Solutions
- At the Council meeting on October 12, 2023, Council approved more than $1.4 million of funding to support its commitment to a healthy and safe community. The funds will be dispersed over three years ($471,000 per year) and used to further expand the Downtown Safety Office’s hours, public works clean-up activities, and community and downtown security patrol.
- Council approved four additional RCMP Officer positions and one additional Bylaw Enforcement Officer position when adopting the 2023-2032 Financial Plan, in support of a Healthy and Safe Community.
- Council approved additional funding to allow for expanded hours for the Downtown Security Patrol contract, which provides a roving presence in the downtown core seven days a week.
- The City purchased 1330 Dogwood Street in June 2023, which has housed the City’s Downtown Safety Office since 2018, reaffirming the City’s investment and commitment to the downtown.
- Council increased resources to support enhanced downtown activations throughout 2023 to encourage a lively, positive, and welcoming community core that attracts community members and visitors alike. City events and activities frequently take place at Spirit Square and downtown. For details, visit campbellriver.ca/events.
- Work on the City’s Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan is underway, with an expected completion date of late 2024.
Lobbying and collaborating with other levels of Government
The City is working with but also lobbying other levels of government to ensure Campbell River gets the support it needs.
Mayor and Council welcomed the Honourable Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and MLA Michele Babchuk to a Special Council meeting in February 2024. Concerns and challenges related to mental health, addictions and homelessness were discussed, alongside ways the Province can support the City’s work to foster a safe, comfortable and inclusive environment for all Campbell River residents and visitors.
- At the 2023 UBCM Convention Council met with provincial officials to:
- Discuss the Table of Partners (TOP) working group and actions taken to date to address the significant challenges of mental health and addictions in Campbell River.
- Call for the provincial government to reimburse local government fire and rescue departments for medical services they provide to respond to the opioid crisis.
- Request increased engagement with local government and First Nations when considering legislative changes to harm reduction policies, such as decriminalization, to ensure a balance is found between providing a robust system of care that considers the well-being of the entire community.
- Advocate for funding for low-barrier housing solutions to address encampments and assist priority populations and unhoused individuals.
- Call for investment in treatment facilities and transition housing, such as Turning Point and Second Chance Recovery House.
- Council continues to advocate for action on initiatives beyond the City’s scope, such as updates to legislation and investments in housing, mental health and addiction support and other avenues to address the root causes of crime, to the Federal and Provincial governments, Island Health, and BC Housing.
In May 2023, Mayor and Council travelled to Victoria to advocate to the Honourable Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, for additional resources for Campbell River, which resulted in the creation of the Table of Partners. The group includes representation from the City, the RCMP, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and Island Health. Clear priorities have been set and all agencies are collaborating to address the community’s most pressing social issues. The TOP first met in June 2023 and meets bi-weekly to ensure continual progress is made.
- Council adopted Public Nuisance Bylaw No. 3898, 2023 (Consumption of Controlled Substances) which prohibits the consumption of controlled substances in City locations where children and families carry out recreational or leisure activities in July 2023.
Much has been and is being done, but there is more to do. The City will continue to lead efforts in our community to improve community safety through collaboration and advocacy.