The Abbotsford Police Department may soon look to clamp down on homeless people who are engaged in criminal or harassing behaviour, Chief Mike Serr told council last week.
Serr said the department will remain focused on first trying to help people living on the streets, but that those who break laws and bylaws also need to be held “accountable” for their actions.
“We are always going to be a caring department that is going to try to find them pathways of care and help,” Serr said. But he added: “I think we’ve lacked the enforcement side at times.”
Serr said a small group of the homeless “are doing a disproportionate amount of crime in our community.”
And he said he has heard from property and business owners frustrated by “significant” shoplifting and thefts, as well as those concerned about panhandling near roadways.
“I do want to identify the smaller group who are really causing the most significant issues and concerns in our community, trying to find them the pathways to getting them the help and the services that they need,” Serr said.
He said the city has a variety of programs and initiatives to help people on the street, including those causing problems.
“We need to find a way to change behaviours, because what we’re doing now – of not doing anything – I think is getting frustrating for a lot of people.”
Mayor Henry Braun said the justice system also needs to be engaged in the issue.
“Our justice system comes into play here, too, because if we move on the enforcement side and nothing happens, it’s just a revolving door,” he said.
Braun has previously said he wishes police, rather than Crown counsel, would have the final say on whether criminal charges are laid in cases.
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