Nanaimo RCMP vehicles at the corner of Nicol Street and Esplanade. (News Bulletin file photo)

Nanaimo RCMP vehicles at the corner of Nicol Street and Esplanade. (News Bulletin file photo)

Op-Ed: Situation tables can reduce crime and improve community safety

Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson says new provincial tool can break cycles of crime and disorder


Crime and social disorder is top of mind for many in Nanaimo and is the issue I hear most about as an MLA. This week I proposed a new, provincially funded tool for Nanaimo that could improve community safety and better connect vulnerable people to the services that can prevent crisis, crime and disorder.

Situation tables problem-solve, one case at a time, so at-risk individuals don’t fall between the cracks. Together police, provincial agencies and front-line workers plan how to get the person the help they need, so problems don’t spill over into neighbourhoods.

COVID-19 has impacted everyone, but for those already vulnerable, their situations have become even more dire. Homelessness and the fallout of addictions and mental illness is hard on everyone; those living with it, neighbours living next to it, first responders and front-line workers. When incidents occur, it is most often the police that are called. And while well-trained in many areas, police departments are not best-suited to respond to many of the situations they are called to.

If this model proceeds, police would refer a case to the situation table, have all the relevant agencies co-ordinate a response, and get the person the help they need to break the cycle of disorder. In the 10 B.C. communities already using this tool, police are the main source of referrals, and the top factors were mental health, drug use, unmet basic needs and housing. In 2019, 54 per cent of situation table cases were subsequently transferred from police to more suitable agencies, which both gets to the root of social disorder and conserves police resources for violent crime.

READ ALSO: City of Nanaimo will look into ‘situation tables’ to address social disorder

As discussions around the globe proliferate about different forms of policing, situation tables emerge as a new model for community safety in British Columbia. Our government is modernizing the 45-year-old Police Act to address racism and mental health, but we can take concrete steps now while the committee completes its work. This approach has the potential to tackle crime at the root of the problem.

Following my presentation, Nanaimo city council unanimously voted to arrange a meeting with an eye to establishing a situation table in our community, which could make it the first on Vancouver Island. This tool could have a profound impact on those in need, and stop some crime and social disorder at its source. I’m confident that by working together we can find solutions to the problems and challenges our community faces.

Sheila Malcolmson is MLA for Nanaimo.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Beef to the plow driver who completely soaked me in dirty slush at the bus stop at Fifth and Hillcrest. I could tell you were driving quite fast so I tried to back up as far as the snowbank would allow but you did not slow down. I am 68 and had to pick up a prescription and had no choice but to continue on soaking wet.
Beefs & Bouquets, March 3

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail

Victoria’s Swartz Bay terminal. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries offers cheaper, prepaid fare options

Ferry service preparing for busy terminals when travel restrictions are lifted

The City of Nanaimo is administering a petition-against process to determine if property owners in the downtown core are in favour of establishing a business improvement area. (City of Nanaimo image)
Nanaimo’s downtown property owners to decide if they want new BIA

City council votes to administer petition-against process for business improvement association

Police in Nanaimo hope the public can help locate a guitar and travel bag stolen from a vehicle in a downtown hotel parking lot. (Photo submitted)
Gibson guitar, Louis Vuitton bag stolen from vehicle in Nanaimo

Items taken from car in Coast Bastion Hotel parking lot last week

Doug Routley is the chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act. (File photo)
Routley selected chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA acknowledges there will be a lot of material to process

A rendering of the new Nanaimo Correctional Centre. (IBI Group Architects image)
Designs come in for Nanaimo’s new jail

City’s design advisory panel supports height variance at Nanaimo Correctional Centre

Beginning late Tuesday, anti-pipeline protesters blocked the intersection of Hastings Street and Clark Drive in Vancouver. (Instagram/Braidedwarriors)
Demonstrators block key access to Vancouver port over jail for pipeline protester

They group is protesting a 90-day jail sentence handed to a fellow anti-pipeline protester

A discarded blue surgical mask is shown hanging in a bush in Montreal, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
B.C. RMT suspended for not wearing a mask after confirmed by undercover clients

College of Massage Therapists has 5 open files, said suspension necessary to protect public

Victoria Police Department vehicles outside the headquarters building. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria police investigating sudden death in Beacon Hill Park

Police, paramedics responded to a report of an unresponsive person early Wednesday

Dozens of reports of sexualized violence against a former employee of downtown Victoria restaurant Chuck’s Burger Bar were posted online in January. A police investigation is ongoing. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Chuck’s Burger Bar in Victoria closes doors after sexual assault allegations

Victoria police investigating reports of sexual misconduct, assault by former restaurant employee

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Missing woman’s remains recovered after Vancouver Island boat fire

Remains of a 60-year-old woman recovered after Feb. 27 boat fire took her life

Most Read