The City of Duncan stopped contributing to the corridor safety office, located at 490 Trans Canada Hwy., as of Aug. 1, but North Cowichan has yet to decide if it also wants to vacate the office.
The city had informed North Cowichan of its intention to pull out of its partnership with the municipality to run the office, which costs $47,000 annually to operate, split between the two municipalities, and that it has reallocated the funds previously dedicated to the office towards other safety initiatives along the troubled Trans-Canada Highway corridor.
At North Cowichan’s council meeting on July 20, CAO Ted Swabey said staff are in the process of preparing a report on the issue and it’s expected council will be presented with options for the office at the next council meeting on Aug. 17.
He said the options will likely include having North Cowichan continue with the lease and operations on its own, or shutting the office down and relocating municipal staff working there to other parts of the highway corridor where it is perceived they may be more needed.
“The report will also have information on how the issues that the RCMP and bylaw officers are dealing with have moved north of the office’s location,” Swabey said.
“The report should be on the agenda for the next council meeting.”
Duncan, North Cowichan, Cowichan Tribes and other stakeholders partnered in 2019 on the Safer Community Plan, an initiative to address crime and public disorder along the highway corridor.
The Safer Community Plan called for the establishment of a corridor safety office for the coordination of municipal bylaw enforcement and RCMP resources in that area.
The City of Duncan decided it was going to pull out of the office in March after a staff report by Duncan CAO Peter de Verteuil.
The report said that at a meeting between Duncan and North Cowichan officials to review the effectiveness of the current initiatives of the Safer Community Plan, all agreed the office is under utilized and funding allocated towards it could be more impactful if reallocated to other initiatives occurring in the corridor.
While many businesses and property owners in the area are still facing significant social issues, a lot of the issues with crime and drug use along the corridor appear to have migrated further north when Island Health’s Overdose Prevention Site moved from Trunk Road in downtown Duncan to York Road on Nov. 1, 2021.
Insp. Chris Bear, head of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, reported in May that calls for service to the RCMP increased by a whopping 47 per cent in the York Street and Lewis Street areas during the first three months of 2022.
But he said the RCMP won’t be sure if the increased calls for service near the OPS site had anything to do with the relocation of the OPS until further research into the issue has been completed.