By Clare Ogilvie
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?”
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.
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
Melamed is also
concerned that this is a case of the provincial government downloading costs on
“The other question
to look at is, is this a further trend of downloading policing costs to the municipalities,”
“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
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.”
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.
“It is not unusual
for a single murder investigation to cost a million dollars and when you are a
smaller community a million dollars is big money,” said Les.
Whistler is not
alone in the corridor with its concerns about funding IHIT. Squamish recently
decided not to put IHIT in its budget but rather to pay for the service if it
The district, which
was asked to contribute $140,000 annually, also had a murder last month. That
crime has been estimated to cost over $60,000 for the two days it took to
capture the suspect.
“If you have a
large level of activity it may make sense to fund this type of unit,” said
Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland. “But in our case the need is few and far between
and it doesn’t make sense from our point of view to ask our taxpayers to pay
$140,000 for a service we might use every third or fourth year.”
But Les believes
that view may be trading a short-term gain for long-term pain.
“Squamish needs to
recognize that it is part of an integrated world,” said Les. “It is not an
island unto itself. It is no longer a mill town on Howe Sound it is part of a
much bigger picture. The community is changing. It is part of a large,
soon-to-be world-renowned corridor and there are new realities that come with
that. We recognize that, we’ve put additional resources into it.
“I think if
Squamish looks at it fairly they are not being put upon anymore than they have
been in the past.
“It is a question
of pooled resources and a more integrated approach. A murder in Squamish might
be related to a murder in North Vancouver and if you have an IHIT team that is
integrated across those municipal boundaries you are going to stand a chance of
getting more effective investigation happening.
“It is a blend of
communities having their own local police force, but for serious police issues
and major investigations we need a more broad ranging integrated set up.”
Squamish are continuing said RCMP Inspector Norm McPhail, who is responsible
for corridor policing.
The reality, said
McPhail, is that the RCMP will bring in whatever teams it has to in order to
solve a crime.
“I have to bring in
whatever expertise I will need to solve that case in the most expeditious
manner that I can,” he said. “So I will front end load resources to solve that
case. It is what is required. It is what the public expects of me, it is what
the province expects of me, and so I will call the resources in to handle that
McPhail points to
the complexities of today’s cases as an underlying reason why integrated
policing is the way of the future.
Not only do serious
crimes need specially trained investigators, they use forensic teams, dog
teams, air assist teams, and other emergency services to reach a successful
For each detachment
to contain these services would be prohibitively expensive.
of investigations has changed,” said McPhail.
“In policing it is
the investigation that in on trial… so we definitely have to put expertise into
those cases and the most cost-effective way of doing that is through integrated
agrees: “There is no question that it is more cost effective… (and) it produces
Both Les and
McPhail believe in the long run IHIT will not add significantly to the cost of
policing as it will cut down on duplication of services and personnel and small
communities will no longer be hit with million dollar bills after a big case.
The Integrated Homicide Investigative Team (IHIT) investigates all homicides within the Lower Mainland. This integrated unit includes experienced homicide investigators and homicide subject experts from all the Lower Mainland RCMP detachments and municipal police departments under one centralized structure.