The Victoria Police Department is evaluating protocols and programs in response to the COVID-19 virus. (Black Press Media file photo)

VicPD evaluating protocols in response to COVID-19

Police pull back on special projects and duties to reprioritize efforts

The Victoria Police Department is evaluating its protocols in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 17 VicPD announced it would delay Project Downtown Connect, an engagement and visibility project aimed at reducing crime in the downtown core.

“This postponement is part of our efforts to ensure that we are able to maintain operational readiness during the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated public affairs Const. Cam MacIntyre.

The project, put in place as a response to increased reports of break-ins at businesses in the Lower Johnson Street area, focused on visibility and face to face engagement – an aspect made challenging by social distancing protocols recommendations by health officials.

MacIntyre said the program will re-start in the future but for now the police department is postponing special programs and duties.

READ ALSO: B.C. declares state of emergency, recalling legislature for COVID-19

“Our objective is, of course, to be able to remain operational [and] keep our staff healthy and able to work,” he said. “And to keep the people in the community that we come into contact with healthy.

“These are challenging times. We will get through this but there are things we have to prioritize.”

On March 17, VicPD closed the front counters at its headquarters in Victoria and Esquimalt, asking the public to use the non-emergency line or report incidents online whenever possible. The department emphasized that emergencies and crimes in progress should still be reported to 911.

A top priority for VicPD is having officers that are able to patrol and respond to priority calls.

“We’re prioritizing services to best meet the needs of the community,” MacIntyre said. “We’re trying to stay ahead of this.”

To mitigate the risks for police at work in the community, officers will wear long-sleeved uniforms and gloves when dealing with the public face to face.

“We do have concerns about the vulnerable population in our community. We do come into contact with people, who, if they get sick, it’s a serious risk to their health.”

Jeff Bray, executive director of the Victoria Downtown Business Association, says he is staying in communication with police and the city’s businesses, many of which have closed up shop indefinitely.

“It’s something that we’re asking to be built into the various planning around this to ensure there’s as many eyes as possible on the streets,” Bray said. “We are staying abreast of all these things [and] really looking for that support from the various agencies involved.”

READ ALSO: Victoria police launches downtown core ‘visibility and engagement’ program



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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