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Is integrated policing worth the cost?

Whistler likely to opt into IHIT program while Squamish chooses user pay system



By Clare Ogilvie

Whistler is investigating whether or not to sign up for the services of the Provincial Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) following last month’s murder — the first in Whistler for many years.

“Staff is doing some further evaluation of costs and what the opportunities and risks are,” said Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed.

“Do we need to do this, should we be doing it?”

Integrated policing started about four years ago. The idea is to pool specialist officers and technology and use these teams to solve major investigations. The cost of the team is paid for by the province, and by the local governments that use it based on a formula using crime statistics and population. It is subscribed to by most places in the Lower Mainland Detachment, which stretches from Pemberton to the US border and from the Sunshine Coast to the Coquihalla Summit.

Whistler has provisionally put $100,000 in its budget for IHIT and the Emergency Response Team (ERT), which often comes to Whistler to help police big events such as the upcoming May long weekend. This year Whistler, which has a resident population of 9,200 but swells to over 30,000 on weekends, will spend $2.9 million on policing.

Melamed is also concerned that this is a case of the provincial government downloading costs on local government.

“The other question to look at is, is this a further trend of downloading policing costs to the municipalities,” he said.

“That is part of the concern. Do we support this trend or is supporting the formation of these new teams supporting a trend that is going to lead to incremental policing costs down the road?”

But B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, John Les, calls that concern, a “tired old song.”

“The only downloading that is occurring is Whistler downloading its costs onto its fellow municipalities because the other municipalities are carrying the can when there is a significant investigation somewhere like Whistler, if they are not integrated with the rest.”

Les believes integrated policing is the future of crime solving. It is more efficient, leads to more cases being closed, and is cheaper in the long run as there is no need to duplicate services in every detachment.