Tough-on-crime legislation and other campaigns by senior levels of government have added half-a-billion dollars to the cost of municipal policing, say Canada’s cities.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, in a submission to the Commons’ public safety committee, said downloading has left local police departments with unsustainable costs.
“Legislative changes at the federal and provincial levels impact on the cost of providing local police services,” said Berry Vrbanovic, past-president of the federation; “Local police forces are dealing with crimes that were once the exclusive purview of the RCMP.”
The federation estimates policing costs nearly doubled between 1999 to 2009, to some $12.3 billion nationwide.
“Front-line police are seeing frustrating trends as cracks with Canada’s mental health and homelessness systems play out in our streets,” Vrbanovic told MPs. “Studies have shown the police have become society’s 24-7, de-facto front line mental health workers. Municipalities do not have the reach or resources to take on more, or to address the social and economic factors that affect crime rates.”
Vrbanovic said it is difficult “to find efficiencies and effectiveness in policing when we don’t have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what and who is paying for what.”
The Department of Public Safety last month convened a summit, Strengthening Canada’s Policing Advantage, to review crime-fighting costs.
Sixty percent of policing budgets are carried by local ratepayers, by federation estimate.