Peel police call for $16.7 million budget increase for 2021
December 2, 2020 By Jason Miller
Peel Regional Police are forecasting a $16.7 million increase in spending for 2021, the bulk of which will service a spike in salaries and benefits, and the addition of 27 officers.
The budget, presented at a police board meeting Friday, calls for $462.5 million in total spending in 2021, a 3.8 per cent increase or a $316 per capita bump in the annual tax levy.
The spending increase comes at a time when police services across Canada and south of the border have seen outcry over police violence and systemic anti-Black racism lead to calls to defund police in favour of non-police alternatives and community programs.
Peel police will spend $5.2 million on hiring the 27 new officers, while other salary and benefits costs will eat up another $11.4 million of the increase. After it was endorsed by the board Friday, the budget will now go to Peel Regional Council for final review and approval in early 2021.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, who is on the seven-member Peel Police Services Board, lauded police Chief Nishan Duraiappah for seeking to reallocate millions of dollars toward areas of public concern.
“Thank you for putting emphasis on areas that are a concern to the community, whether it’s street racing, mental health, whether it’s human trafficking,” Brown said.
The service says it saw more than $2 million in unforeseen costs this year as a result of the pandemic. It will draw on reserve funds to cover any COVID-related shortfalls.
Looking ahead, Peel police is also calling for $597 million in capital upgrades – to be funded from capital reserve funds – it says will be needed over the next decade. It includes an anticipated $307 million for land and new facilities, $153 million for information and technology advancements, and $76 million for vehicles.
At the board meeting Friday, Duraiappah also discussed a summary of the year’s crime trends:
Gun crime and homicides trending down
Peel is seeing a decline in gang and gun activity so far this year, and is also tracking a decrease in homicides, Duraiappah told the police board Friday.
Nevertheless, he dubbed the service’s Project Siphon, which ended with more than 800 charges against 88 people earlier this month, the “largest in the service’s history.”
The arrests led to what police say is the dismantling of a prominent Peel-area gang, the seizure of dozens of guns and arrests over three homicides and one attempted murder.
So far this year, Peel police have seized 363 firearms, Duraiappah said, noting that “91 per cent of the handguns seized that are traceable came from the United States,” up from the 74 per cent in 2019.
“We do have a plan to bolster our gang response,” Duraiappah said. “We know a dedicated gang team is one we need for the new year.”
But intimate partner violence is still common
So far this year, police have responded to 90 shootings and 14 homicides, five of which were linked to intimate partner violence. That continues a trend that also saw more than a third of the region’s 34 homicides last year linked to intimate partner-related disputes.
“It’s still the top three calls that we have each day,” the chief said. “We need to turn the dial on this,” he said, adding that it’s a priority to lower the number of repeat offenders.
This year, the service is averaging about 50 calls a day for intimate partner disputes and in response, Duraiappah said the service has created a dedicated intimate partner and family unit with 48 officers who will soon start working out of a hub dedicated to those calls.
Rethinking mental health crisis calls
Peel’s three dedicated Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams responded to 1,700 calls between their introduction in January and October, with only 22 per cent of those calls ending in someone being apprehended, a report to the board said.
But police field about 16 daily calls for mental health distress, and the bulk of those calls still land in police hands, Duraiappah said.
“We know it’s understaffed,” he said, adding that the rapid response teams can’t respond to that volume of demand – “they do about a third of them, so two-thirds are still being done by uniformed officers.”
“Our goal is to have eight on the rapid response team,” he added.
Under existing provincial law, only police have the power to apprehend a person experiencing a mental health crisis and take them for treatment.
A near-record year for traffic deaths
So far this year, Peel has seen a significant increase in vehicle-related deaths, at 38, up from 23 all of last year. Since 2010, only two full years have recorded more motor vehicle-related fatalities: 41 in 2018 and 40 in 2016.
“We’re sadly at one of the highest levels of fatal motor vehicle collisions this region has ever seen,” the chief said.
The chief also mentioned a troubling bump in stunt driving charges. Police laid 719 charges for stunt driving, to date, up from 332 over the same time frame in 2019.
By Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TORONTO STAR
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