Terrace RCMP Staff Sgt. Mike Robinson shot down the idea of a “No-Go Zone” policy as a way to deal with prolific offenders during a Terrace council committee of the whole meeting on March 15.
The purpose of such a zone would restrict repeat offenders from being present in specific parts of the city, or barred from Terrace entirely.
The idea has come up among council members and business owners becoming increasingly frustrated at what they say is a crime wave of shoplifting, theft and other criminal acts within the downtown core.
But Robinson quickly discounted the idea to council, saying that the RCMP do not have the authority to enact and enforce a no-go zone, it would not be successful in its intended purpose and it would cut people off from services in the restricted areas.
It is only the judiciary that can issue broad prohibitions in conditions for the release of people in custody.
Terrace’s interim detachment commander said police can put conditions on offenders, but they are limited be relevant to a specific crime, for example restricting a person from visiting a certain business where they committed an offence. He said that more expansive no-go zones are beyond the scope of police powers, and are not practical.
“That would be the same as assaulting somebody and getting a no-go to have no contact with anybody, it’s not a philosophy that can be applied, and it’s not something we have the power to do,” Robinson said.
“To keep it simple from a police perspective, we as police don’t have the power to put in a no-go, we can’t say no-go to Terrace, we can’t say no-go to downtown Terrace, we can’t say no-go Thornhill, it’s got to be something that the judiciary puts in place, and then it also has to be something the judiciary is willing to enforce.”
At the beginning of the meeting, Coun. James Cordeiro said that from his recollection, there was a time in the late 2000s when there was a “red zone” in place, and social issues in the downtown were better contained than they are currently.
In 2009, the Terrace RCMP introduced a “street crew” of two officers who patrolled the downtown area in a van, on bikes or on foot. One of those officers, Const. Brian Heideman, told the Terrace Standard in Oct. 2009 that eight repeat offenders had been ordered by the court not to go into the downtown area.
Robinson disagreed with Cordeiro’s statement, however, saying that he did not remember that era as particularly successful. He said that Terrace RCMP had problems with “heavy handedness” and that it was a “quite a dark time for the detachment.”
“I was here at that time when that old red zone was here, the issues that it created was it cut individuals off from certain services, it didn’t allow them to go to certain areas where they needed to get,” Robinson told council.
The discussion about a no-go zone policy started at a March 3 council meeting, where council unanimously passed a resolution to send to the North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) for its 2022 annual general meeting and convention.
That resolution also carried letters of support from several business owners in Terrace who have been victims of criminal activities and highlighted BC Prosecution’s (Crown Counsel) failure to charge repeat offenders, who are routinely released without consequences or meaningful conditions imposed upon them.