Q2 of 2022 saw the successful completion of key engagement projects like the 2022 VicPD Community Survey and #Warrant Wednesday, but also saw response to significant increases in random attacks and a nine-week series of incidents involving violence and vandalism related to large groups of youths gathering with drugs, alcohol and weapons in downtown Victoria.
One of the most important, but most challenging moments of the quarter came on June 28th, when three VicPD officers were among six GVERT officers shot while responding to two heavily armed suspects at a bank in Saanich. In addition to providing direct operational and communications support to our Saanich Police Department partners as part of the immediate response to the incident, the Public Affairs section of the Community Engagement team continues to support the ongoing investigation and respond to community concern and the tremendous outpouring of community support.
A young girl wears a blue heart in support of GVERT officers
VicPD launched the VicPD Indigenous Heritage Crest. VicPD’s Indigenous Engagement Team of First Nations and Metis members who have ancestral ties to the Cree, Kaska, Dena, Mi’kmaq, Mohawk, Naskapi and Ojibwe nations created VicPD’s crest to honour the Indigenous heritage of those who serve our communities as VicPD officers, civilian employees, special municipal constables, jail staff, and volunteers.
Acclaimed educator and master carver Yux’wey’lupton launches the VicPD Indigenous Engagement Crest with Det. Cst. Sandi Haney and Cst. Cam MacIntyre
The VicPD Indigenous Heritage Crest was designed by acclaimed educator and master carver Yux’wey’lupton, a true visionary guide and knowledge-keeper, known widely by his English name, Clarence “Butch” Dick. Butch was also instrumental in helping design our VicPD crest, which prominently features the Sta’qeya, or Coast Salish wolf, as a way to represent our connection to the traditional Lekwungen territories where we live and work.
Nine weeks of violence and vandalism associated with groups of youths, primarily from municipalities outside of Victoria and Esquimalt, gathering downtown with weapons drugs and alcohol saw swarming attacks on a couple, an unhoused couple, an officer in the process of making a lawful arrest and a 72-year-old man, who was left with significant facial injuries.
Officers and staff from across VicPD, including the Community Services Division (CSD), Patrol Division, Investigative Services Division (ISD) and Community Engagement Division (CED) all responded. The response included direct outreach and engagement with partners including the Saanich Police Department, Oak Bay Police, the Central Saanich Police Service, West Shore RCMP and Sidney/North Saanich RCMP, as well as school districts across the regions including SD61, SD62 and SD63, private schools, municipalities, youth probation, community groups, parents, families and youths themselves to foster short, medium and long-term solutions. Our response included a series of #VicPDLive tweetalongs on our VicPD Canada Twitter account. Community Engagement supported the enforcement and engagement portion of the operation as part of the response that resulted in 60 investigations and 24 arrests ranging from public intoxication to possession of weapons, assault, assault with a weapon, and mischief. The final two weeks of the enforcement period saw no significant incidents.
With 1,300 2022 VicPD Community Survey responses, we continued our extensive engagements with the communities of Victoria and Esquimalt. Key findings include an 82% overall satisfaction rate, and 93% of overall respondents agreeing that “Police and citizens working together can make this a better place to live and work.” The rigorous survey process and statistically significant sample means that the survey reflects the responses of nearly 12 out of every 1,000 Victoria and Esquimalt residents.
Many of the survey responses did not see significant changes from last year’s results. However, we continue to see that only 37% of respondents feel safe in downtown Victoria or Esquimalt Plaza at night.
Random attacks emerged as a serious community safety issue this quarter. The attacks included the random targeting of people downtown with bear spray, a man randomly punched in the face on Dallas Road, a woman suffering head injuries after being randomly attacked from behind in James Bay, a man randomly attacking kitchen staff in a downtown restaurant after entering through a staff-only door, a man left with significant burns after being attacked by a woman on Blanshard Street, and a suspect arrested after striking a father walking with his child in a stroller. The Community Engagement team assisted in keeping the public informed and assisting investigators in the search for witnesses, video and other evidence and additional investigative and suspect information.
A series of arsons, including one at the residence of a Ukrainian Catholic Church priest’s family which saw responding Patrol officers give life-saving first aid to a young girl, struck across Victoria.
While there has been extensive damage and significant public concern, officers have made arrests in some of the files. The Community Engagement team continues to assist in supporting the ongoing investigations.
Early in the quarter, Strike Force seized 8 kilograms of deadly drugs including fentanyl, multiple firearms including assault rifles and over $100,000 in cash as part of an investigation into suspected drug traffickers with ties to the Lower Mainland gang conflict who were operating in Victoria.
Working with information from VicPD’s Analysis and Intelligence Section (AIS), officers seized eight kilograms of drugs, including 1.5 kilograms of fentanyl, 3.5 kilograms of cocaine, and three kilograms of methamphetamine. In addition, officers sized eight rifles and one handgun, accompanied by magazines and ammunition, as well as more than $105,000 in Canadian currency.
Historical Case Review Unit investigators released new photographs of missing Esquimalt woman Belinda Cameron. Belinda Cameron was last seen on May 11th, 2005. Belinda was last seen at Esquimalt’s Shoppers Drug Mart in the 800-block of Esquimalt Road that day. Belinda was reported missing nearly a month later, on June 4th, 2005. Officers conducted an extensive investigation and a series of searches for Belinda. She has not been found.
Belinda’s disappearance is considered suspicious and investigators believe that Belinda was the victim of foul play. Her disappearance continues to be investigated as a homicide.