Mounting legal costs, training expenses and overtime required to investigate serious crimes such as homicides are taxing the Vancouver Police Department’s operating budget this year.
But management is confident the VPD will not run a deficit in 2012 despite going $817,328 over budget in certain areas in the first three months of the year.
So far, the VPD managed to keep the deficit from getting out of control by balancing it with $822,000 in savings largely related to several officers on unpaid leave and a decrease in overtime costs for day-to-day policing.
“While there is still risk, as many costs can vary significantly in response to community circumstances, management projects that the department will come within budget for the year,” said a VPD staff report going before the Vancouver Police Board Wednesday.
The first three months of the year saw the department go over budget in fleet operations ($107,803), the criminal investigation fund ($126,231), legal costs ($160,483), travel and training ($104,338) and uniforms and equipment ($103,445).
Other operating costs, which are not defined in the report, reached $240,596. The legal costs include the bills for now-closed Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. The increased tab for the criminal investigation fund doesn’t indicate which cases required overtime but historically it’s related to homicide investigations.
So far this year, police have investigated five homicides, including the May 2 brazen daylight shooting of 44-year-old Ranjit Singh Cheema on East 61st Avenue.
“The department has only limited control over criminal investigation fund costs, as they are driven by events in the community,” the report said. “As a result, they can vary dramatically over the course of the year.”
The overspending of the fund is not unusual when compared to previous VPD budget documents that show the department ran a deficit in this area for four consecutive years ending 2011.
The budget for the fund was $3 million last year but reached $4.1 million by year’s end. The VPD also went over its legal budget last year, exceeding it by $329,000, most of which related to the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.
The department is predicting it will continue to be busy on the Granville Street strip and require more patrols and officers to deal with liquor-related problems.
“Liquor callouts are projected to be over budget as the disorder on weekends seen in the Granville Entertainment District has carried over in Gastown,” the report said. “In order to contain this growing problem, additional liquor callouts are deployed in Gastown on weekend evenings.”
Former police board member Glenn Wong highlighted the cost of policing the Granville Street strip in a Courier story in February. Wong said the $800,000-plus annual tab for specialized police teams to patrol the strip was a drain on the VPD’s operating budget.
He suggested the provincial government consider increasing fines for public drunkenness and urination, and cracking down on over serving alcohol to customers.
The VPD’s budget this year is $212 million. Despite costs related to the Stanley Cup riot and Occupy Vancouver, the department ended 2011 with a $163,795 surplus.
The VPD has balanced its budget for seven consecutive years.