British Columbia Justice Reform Initiative Submission

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1 British Columbia Justice Reform Initiative Submission Prepared by the Canadian Bankers Association June 29, 2012 EXPERTISE CANADA BANKS ON LA RÉFÉRENCE BANCAIRE AU CANADA

2 Introduction The Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) is pleased to have this opportunity to participate in the British Columbia Justice Reform Initiative as part of this broad stakeholder effort to make B.C. s justice system more effective. The CBA works on behalf of 54 domestic banks, foreign bank subsidiaries and foreign bank branches operating in Canada and their 274,000 employees. The CBA advocates for effective public policies that contribute to a sound, successful banking system that benefits Canadians and Canada's economy. The Association also promotes financial literacy to help Canadians make informed financial decisions and works with banks and law enforcement to help protect customers against financial crime and promote fraud awareness. In considering the issues set out in the government s Green Paper, Modernizing British Columbia s Justice System, the banking industry encourages all efforts to find efficiencies in the justice system that will reduce undue delays and also allow government and the court system to dedicate targeted resources most effectively. Similarly, we support efforts to improve continuity of Crown Counsel assigned to a file. Further, we would be supportive of reforms to current operational practices that would allow further consideration of interrelated issues such as drug use. The banking industry believes that allowing for a broader review of all factors that may lead to criminal activity would be a welcome change from the incident-focused criminal law lens currently in use. We also agree that the B.C. justice system must be effective in intervening to promote safety and ensuring those who commit crimes face real consequences for their actions to adequately deter criminal activities. Without question, victims of crime face immeasurable and long-term psychological effects and therefore their protection must be a primary objective. Bank robberies in British Columbia In the context of the work of the Justice Reform Initiative, the banking industry brings forward a particular and longstanding concern about the high rate of bank and other financial institution robberies in British Columbia in recent years. For several years, the CBA has been actively engaged on a number of fronts to address this problem, working cooperatively with a range of stakeholders in government, law enforcement, crown counsel and other private sector partners. Financial institution robbery, indeed robbery in general, is an issue of serious concern for communities across Canada. Unfortunately, financial institution robberies are more likely to occur in British Columbia than in other Canadian provinces. This can include violent branch take-over style robberies, where several offenders armed with weapons physically take over a financial institution, maintain control and threaten the lives of everyone present. In fact, bank robbery occurrences in the rest of Canada average 8% in the display of a weapon (i.e. firearm, knife, pepper spray, syringe etc.), whereas the rate in B.C. in 2012 is currently at 21%. 2

3 The banking industry has 783 bank branches and over 28,000 bank employees in British Columbia. Bank robberies are an unpredictable and personal crime, with a physical and emotional impact on customers and employees. It is the risk this crime poses to innocent people, not the actual money that is stolen, that is the primary concern of the banking industry. Despite a recent reduction in the number of annual occurrences, British Columbia continues to stand out as having the highest robbery rate in Canada (see Appendix, Figures 1, 2 and 3). In the Greater Vancouver Regional District, the situation is worse than any other jurisdiction in Canada, with more offenders robbing financial institutions more often. More generally, Vancouver remains the worst metropolitan area in Canada for property crime. Despite the substantial likelihood of being caught, offenders are not deterred from committing these crimes. The combined efforts of all stakeholders to date, including minor increases in sentencing and a clearance rate of 85% by charge for the province, have all contributed to a lower incidence of bank robberies (see Appendix, Figure 4 YTD Comparison 2003 to 2012). However, much more needs to be done. Areas of concern The CBA and other stakeholders involved in this matter recognize that the robbery problem in British Columbia is complex and due to a number of factors. The banking industry has identified three principal areas of concern that need to be addressed in order to achieve a substantial reduction in the number of robberies of financial institutions in the province: 1. Sentencing The high rate of financial institution robberies in British Columbia is compounded by the more lenient sanctions given to offenders in British Columbia compared to other provinces. In a November 2008 study by Professor Anthony Doob (University of Toronto) and Professor Cheryl Webster (University of Ottawa) entitled, Concern with Leniency: An Examination of Sentencing Patterns in British Columbia, the authors stated that compelling empirical support exists for the view that sentences in British Columbia are shorter than in Canada generally. Although the study did not examine bank robberies specifically, it did find that for 25 of the 30 offences it did compare, sentences in British Columbia were more lenient than in other jurisdictions. 2. Repeat offenders Many of the robberies are being committed by offenders who are on parole, probation, unlawfully at large, or out on bail. In addition, due to the extensive use of early parole, many offenders are serving only part of their sentence. 3. Drug addiction Problems associated with drug addiction, including inadequate funding for treatment of drug addicts, is a key factor. Much of the cash stolen in bank robberies in Vancouver, or the cash that has been converted from stolen property, is used to buy drugs. Despite the fact that substance abuse is clearly aggravating the financial institution robbery issue, when it comes to sentencing, evidence suggests that substance abuse is often used to justify shorter sentences. This is not the case in other jurisdictions. 3

4 A holistic approach needs to be adopted that involves active co-operation and collaboration between law enforcement agencies, crown counsel, the correctional services and government departments, including an effective drug rehabilitation program. Ongoing CBA engagement The CBA has been active over the majority of the past decade in its work to reduce the number of bank robberies in British Columbia. Among the areas of focus are the following: Engagement with law enforcement We gratefully acknowledge the efforts of the police forces in the province. Several years ago, the Vancouver Police increased resources devoted to dealing with financial institution robberies. That helped achieve a higher clearance rate and a reduction in the number of occurrences in Vancouver. The CBA and the banks Regional Heads of Security meet regularly with senior members of the Vancouver Police. Crown Counsel Through the industry s dialogue with Crown Counsel in B.C., the proof of concept scheme in Vancouver assigning dedicated and experienced Crown Counsel to robbery offences has had a positive impact with offenders being dealt with more quickly, in a more consistent manner, and with a movement toward receiving sentences that are more in line with the penalties given in other jurisdictions in Canada. Vancouver Robbery Coalition The CBA led the creation of the Vancouver Robbery Coalition in 2005, made up of a range of partners across business, law enforcement and government. The coalition meets regularly to share best practices aimed at preventing and reducing robberies and to assist law enforcement in crime mitigation. The coalition is comprised of representatives from: B.C./Vancouver law enforcement; Crown Counsel Office; CBA and member banks; credit unions; Credit Union Central of B.C.; Downtown Vancouver Association; Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association; and, Western Convenience Stores Association. CBA Security Specialists Group The CBA has in place a Security Specialists Group made up of bank representatives who are subject matter experts, including physical security managers. This group meets regularly to share best practices, develop tactics and strategies, provide guidance to the CBA s Centralized Financial Crimes Intelligence Unit (CFCIU), and to support the efforts of the bank security personnel and police. Although the Group is responsible for robbery issues nationally, it pays particular attention to the situation in Lower Mainland B.C. Centralized Financial Crimes Intelligence Unit (CFCIU) The CBA established the CFCIU, as part of its Bank Crime Prevention and Investigation Office (an Investigative Body under the Personal information Protection and Electronic Documents Act), in January 2008 to collect criminal occurrence information and digital images of suspects, conduct analysis and develop intelligence to enable bank security members to proactively prevent crime and, when it does occur, to bring 4

5 those responsible to justice. An important task of the CFCIU is to support the working groups and the investigative efforts of bank security and municipal and provincial police in British Columbia. CBA Recommendations Based on the background information noted above, the banking industry is putting forward the following recommendations for consideration as part of the Justice Reform Initiative. As is evident from the commentary in our submission to this point, there is considerable overlap among the many issues at play involving the high rate of bank robberies in the province. That overlap is also evident in the recommendations set out below, though we have made every effort to group the recommendations in a straightforward manner. Tougher sentences Sentences remain lighter in B.C. than in other jurisdictions. Among the issues that need to be addressed in this context: Prior convictions should influence sentencing. In other provincial jurisdictions, an offender s number of prior robbery convictions influences the length of the sentence the more convictions, the longer the sentence. In British Columbia this is not the case, as the number of prior convictions appears to have little influence on the sentence. As noted above, one-third of financial institution robbery offences are committed by offenders who are on parole, probation, unlawfully at large or out on bail. Sentencing and drug dependency need to be linked. B.C. courts regularly consider addiction as a mitigating factor, resulting in a more lenient sentence. This is not the case in other jurisdictions. Harm reduction and sentencing in B.C. should be reconciled. The province should eliminate the current practice of discounting penalties by up to one-third once an individual is sentenced. B.C. should consider benchmarking sentences with those imposed in other provinces other provinces sentencing practices appear to be contributing to better outcomes, lower robbery rates, lower recidivism rates and general deterrence. Addressing substance abuse With substance abuse as a critical factor in almost all financial institution robberies, we encourage the provincial government to address drug dependency and reduce recidivism. Further, it is important to make a direct link between sentencing and efforts by the province to end the offender s drug dependency. Appropriate sentencing must occur to ensure that there is an opportunity for the drug addiction robbery cycle to be broken. Increased penalties for repeat offenders and those who fail to successfully complete drug dependence programs serves to both protect the innocent victims of these crimes, and to permit a greater chance of successfully addressing the drug dependency. 5

6 A much broader point, though directly related, is the need to address the role of organized crime and the drug trade in creating the drug dependency that contributes substantially to the financial institution robbery situation in the province. The increasing number of gang slayings in British Columbia underlines this observation. Proof of Concept The Proof of Concept scheme of assigning dedicated and experienced Crown Counsel to the prosecution of bank robberies in Vancouver has been very helpful and should be extended to other cities in British Columbia. In Vancouver this has greatly reduced the time and effort of police and the courts to process and conclude these files. The success of the dedicated Crowns in Vancouver is in pulling together prolific/multiple jurisdiction robbery files into one indictment and then moving these files quickly through to a plea. The proven strength of this approach is in case ownership by an assigned Assistant Crown Counsel. A culture of case ownership must be encouraged in British Columbia, as discussed in the Green Paper, to reduce costs and the duplication of efforts that stems from having multiple Crown Counsel assigned successively to the same case, often ending in poor outcomes. The CBA believes that the failure to manage offenders and the addictions that underpin their behaviour, coupled with a lack of policy to ensure that prior offences and current charges outstanding in other jurisdictions are brought together in British Columbia, has resulted in inefficiencies and increased costs. The mechanism to conduct these checks is available through the Attorney General s Justin program, but the program is not being used effectively. The CBA recommends Crown case ownership across British Columbia, along with a direct link between sentencing and drug dependency. This approach will reduce workload and aid in restoring public confidence in prosecutions in British Columbia. Conclusion The Canadian Bankers Association appreciates having this opportunity to provide the banking industry s input into the British Columbia Justice Reform Initiative as part of the government s effort to achieve a more effective justice system for the province. The banking industry has considerable expertise in dealing with issues related to crime, and banks invest significant financial and human resources to the prevention, detection and investigation of criminal activity related to their operations. While protecting customers and safeguarding the financial system from losses through financial crimes is an important undertaking, the industry is especially committed to protecting their clients and their staff from the physical and emotional impact that result from being victims of a bank robbery. We believe that the recommendations set out above should be seriously considered in the context of achieving a more effective justice system in British Columbia. The CBA would be pleased to continue to work cooperatively through the Justice Reform Initiative, including its upcoming White Paper, and with the government directly, toward this worthwhile and necessary objective. 6

7 Appendix Bank Robberies in British Columbia Bank Robberies for Major Canadian Cities 2010 & 2011 Figure Bank Robberies per Capita by City 12 # Robberies per 100K People Vancouver Calgary Edmonton Winnipeg Toronto Montreal 603,502 1,096, , ,617 2,615,060 1,649,518 City and Population * * 2010 population figures unavailable, 2011 population figures were used Figure Bank Robberies per Capita by City # Robberies per 100K People Vancouver Calgary Edmonton Winnipeg Toronto Montreal 603,502 1,096, , ,617 2,615,060 1,649,518 City and Population 7

8 Figure 3 Robberies per 100,000 residents in major Canadian cities Branch City Population # Robberies # Robberies per 100K (2010) (rounded to nearest whole) # Robberies (2011) # Robberies per 100K (rounded to nearest whole) Vancouver 603, Calgary 1,096, Edmonton 812, Winnipeg 663, Toronto 2,615, Montreal 1,649, Year-To-Date Comparison of British Columbia Financial Institution Robberies Figure 4 YTD Comparison January February March April May June July August September October November December

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