The District of Sooke held the first protective services meeting on March 7 at the municipal city hall to introduce different emergency departments to residents.
Heads from the Sooke RCMP, fire department and ambulatory services conducted presentations discussing year-end results, department backgrounds and existing shortfalls.
“Sooke compared to other municipalities is grossly under policed,” said Steve Wright, RCMP staff sergeant. “We don’t have enough police officers to go to 24 hour coverage and that is a concern to me.”
The District of Sooke currently has 15 police officers, 11 are paid by the district and four by the province.
After 3 a.m. there are no police officers in the detachment, only officers on call.
“What it does is our police officers are on call so there’s a delay in our response. A serious delay in our response time and that could pose a danger to the community,” Wright said.
There is currently one police officer for every 1,000 residents in the district, which contrasts with the 1/670 average for the rest of the province. In order to match the province, Sooke requires five more police officers.
Each tax payer, pays $140/year for policing services. In Victoria it’s $400 per capita.
“We’re being stretched too thin with all the demands. We’re getting to the point now where the days of ‘No call is too small’ is coming to an end.”
According to Wright, police are focusing on crime reduction. Prolific offenders are monitored to ensure they follow probation rules, and curfews.
“Prolific offenders commit 90 per cent of the crimes, so if we target them we’ll reduce our crime rate.”
Last year, police responded to 5,000 calls, nearly a 600 decrease from the six year average.
Fire Chief Steve Sorensen said the department is in need of more volunteer fire fighters.
“Biggest problem we’re facing right now is recruitment and retention of volunteer fire fighters,” he said, adding a volunteer fire fighter lasts 2.8 years, but it takes roughly two years to train them. Training costs roughly $8,000, including gear.
“Each year it gets a little bit harder to attract volunteers.”
In order to cut costs, the fire department was thinking of culling the first responder program, but it was later determined it would be more cost-efficient to continue it.
“If your majority of your department is first responder trained, you don’t have to have first aid attendants.”
Currently the fire completes less than half of inspections for commercial and public buildings, completing 350 out of 750 this year, not including re-inspections.
According to fire underwriters, the 25-year-old tank on the tanker truck is going to need to replaced soon.
Calls have increased 10 per cent each year for the past 15 years, with 900 calls this year.
The fire department currently operates on five paid positions and 33 volunteer fire fighters.
Bryon Longeway, BC Ambulance unit chief, said the local ambulances answer 2,500 calls a year, which fluctuate between 150-200 calls a month. The service area stretches from Metchosin to Jordan River.
He said the District of Sooke currently receives assistance from Victoria advanced life support paramedics, who are on scene in situations that require a higher level of care.
According to Longeway, a cardiac case would take the paramedics to Royal Jublilee Hospital in Victoria, meaning an absence between 3-4 hours.
He said that cardiac cases will usually go to RJH because paramedics can provide emergency care in the back of an ambulance, meaning a direct route to Cath care.
Longeway said response times are monitored by a higher body, and paramedics are given 90 seconds to get to a scene. Since September, there have been no inquiries from the District of Sooke or fire services regarding response delays.
There are currently 30-32 staff. Eight staff moved onto other postings on March 1, but 10 more were acquired.