Revelstoke bylaw enforcement officers handled more than twice as many files in 2015 as in the previous year.
In fact, the 785 files handled last year was more than the previous two years combined, with the spike largely driven by a huge increase in traffic and parking files.
Bylaw Enforcemebt Officers Joe Marcoffio, Blaine Schraeder and Darryl Cancelliere went in front of Revelstoke council on Tuesday to talk about their work. The city contracts with BC Commissionaires to perform bylaw enforcement and animal control.
The most notable aspect of their presentation was the fact they responded to 785 files in 2015, compared to 300 in 2014 and 320 in 2013. Those numbers don’t include animal control calls.
The spike was largely due to increased response to traffic and parking issues. BC Commissionaires dealt with 498 such files in 2015, up front 142 in 2014 and 51 in 2013. They also dealt with more garbage issues (43 in 2015, up from 16 in 2014), illegal camping (34 in 2015, up from five in 2014) and unsightly premises (50 in 2015 compared to 23 in 2014).
Why the increase?
Officer Joe Marcoffio told council it was due to more proactive enforcement, better use of time and the changing demographics of Revelstoke.
“I think these calls for service, these issues, have always been here, it’s just that we’ve been a little bit more proactive, and more out on the street and involved in enforcing these,” he said.
Dawn Levesque, the city’s director of corporate administration, said the increase was also due to a restructuring of bylaw enforcement in 2014. Responsibility for bylaw enforcement was moved to the administration department from the planning department, and all bylaw enforcement was brought under the auspices of the Commissionaires. Previously, municipal bylaws were also enforced by public works and building inspection.
“Consolidation into one department has allowed for improved record keeping and more effective complaint management,” she wrote in an e-mail. “The Commissionaires have also increased their active enforcement operations.”
The city is proposing to increasie its budget for bylaw enforcement and animal control in 2016, increasing the number of hours to 40 from 30. The draft budget proposes an increase in spending to $150,050 in 2016, from $132,550 in 2015. The city spent an average of $112,661 per year on bylaw enforcement from 2012–2014.
Councillor Trevor English, the chair of the city’s security committee, said the proposed increase was due to the officers’ extra workload. “They’re just so busy. For them to be able to get through everything, they need more hours,” he said. “The calls for service can’t go unanswered. We have to be addressing complaints.”
Like most delegations to council at this time of year, Marcoffio was there to argue the case for the increased budget.
“We really feel as an enforcement unit our number one priority is public safety and quality of living,” he said. “We see them as separate but they work together. We are community ambassadors but we also do enforcement.”
The Commissionaires enforce municipal bylaws from parking violations to illegal camping to watering restrictions. They seek out voluntary compliance, but can also hand out tickets and take someone to court if necessary. The city collects about $4,700 in fines per year. Marcoffio said they could be more effective with more resources.
“Some of the files we’re getting are becoming more complex,” he said. “They take more time, more effort, and that takes us off the road.”
Marcoffio said they have been trying to increase their presence in the community, but that confrontation by the public is on the rise — something he called “unacceptable.”
“It destroys the perception of enforcement officers and the city involved, and it makes us less effective,” he told council. “It undermines authority of us and places us in more harm by having individuals challenge us further if they see there are no consequences to that.”
English said the security committee would be having further discussion on the role of bylaw enforcement this month.