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Why catching a killer could mean a big tax hike for one Vancouver Island community

Hefty bill for homicide investigation could lead to tax hike, warns Sooke Mayor Maja Tait
The District of Sooke’s police budget is $2,443,607 but only covers the regular operations of the RCMP. Major crimes, such as murders, terrorism and cocaine trafficking, are handled differently, say officials. (File - Sooke News Mirror)

As policing costs associated with a murder in Sooke rise, the town’s mayor warns that a tax hike could result.

The Sooke RCMP and the Vancouver Island Major Crime Unit (VIMCU) launched an investigation into a murder on May 15 after the body of a man was found at a Throup Road residence, leading investigators to suspect foul play.

A person of interest was arrested at the scene, but no charges have been filed.

RELATED: Police have ‘person of interest’ in Sooke murder probe

This year, the District of Sooke’s police budget is $2,443,607 but that only covers the regular operations of the RCMP. Major crimes, such as murders, terrorism and cocaine trafficking, are handled differently.

“We’re a growing community, and our problems grow with it,” said Mayor Maja Tait, adding that an investigation could cost thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

Tait says VIMCU is like an insurance policy that prevents municipalities from having to pay enormous fees for special police investigations.

Sooke had the opportunity to help fund the VIMCU several years ago, but an earlier council decided against it.

The district’s decision to not join a primary crime unit is “extremely short-sighted,” said John Treleaven, chair of the Grumpy Taxpayers of Greater Victoria, a citizens’ advocacy group.

“It’s not what I’d expect from any level of government,” he said.

In recent years, Sooke council has bid to be a part of VIMCU, but the province put the request on the backburner as it reviews the Police Act.

“We’ve met directly with the minister responsible for VIMCU to share our concerns,” Tait said. “They listen and understand, but we still can’t access the program.”

In support of expenses outside the current police service agreement, the district regularly contributes to a reserve fund. In addition, the fund is used to hire more local police officers as the community grows. The fund stands at $529,815.

Tait said the district is still waiting for the cost of the murder investigation, and she hopes because the suspect and victim knew each other, it will be less of a financial burden on Sooke taxpayers.

“It becomes challenging and more expensive when there are no suspects, then the costs escalate,” she said.

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