Should the Vancouver Police Department oversee UBC's Point Grey campus?
If there's ever a fire on UBC's Point Grey campus, someone can call Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.
Firefighters will be dispatched from Vancouver Fire Hall No. 10, which is on the campus at 2992 Wesbrook Mall.
And if these firefighters need more support, they can call on assistance from their colleagues at Fire Hall No. 19. It isn't far away at 4396 West 12th Avenue in Vancouver.
But if there are reports of sexual assaults on the Point Grey campus, it's not quite so seamless. It's not the Vancouver Police Department's jurisdiction.
That's because the Mounties police the University Endowment Lands. Pacific Spirit Park and Wreck Beach are under the jurisdiction of Metro Vancouver.
It explains why beach users encounter the RCMP enforcing Metro Vancouver's rules on when to vacate the area.
Anyone who has read investigative journalist Paul Palango's three books on the RCMP knows that the force faces some monumental problems.
Veteran Mounties don't want to live in expensive areas. That's why municipalities like Burnaby, North Vancouver, and Richmond end up with a disproportionate share of Mounties with little experience. Older officers prefer to live and work where they can afford to buy a home, like Maple Ridge or Mission.
When a serious crime occurs, such as the 2009 murder of jogger Wendy Ladner-Beaudry, the Mounties aren't always up to the task. As the fifth anniversary of that crime approaches, there's no sign that this dastardly killing in Pacific Spirit Park is any closer to being solved.
Meanwhile, the Air India bombing investigation was bungled for a generation in part because back in the 1980s, RCMP officers couldn't get along with members of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. This was chronicled by several journalists.
I can't comment on the Mounties' recent inability to find a man who may have perpetrated six assaults on the Point Grey campus since April.
And to be fair, perhaps the VPD's sexual-assault wouldn't have been able to crack the case either, had these crimes occurred within its jurisdiction. But at least the VPD is big enough to have a sexual-assault squad, with officers who've had extensive training in this area.
Mayors in Richmond, North Vancouver, and Burnaby have traditionally preferred having the Mounties police their cities because it's cheaper to contract the RCMP than create a municipal force. But Palango has pointed out that contract policing comes at a cost. Sometimes, municipalities pay for services even though officers might be seconded to other work.
Is it time to re-evaluate UBC's police force?
With UBC's residential population growing, campus dwellers might ask if they want to continue being policed by the Mounties.
Has the time come for UBC to grow up as a community and petition the City of Vancouver to come under the aegis of the Vancouver police?
It might come at a slightly higher cost to the university and local residents. But that's a small price in comparison to the climate of fear that exists out there now.
Notwithstanding the bungled investigation into the missing women in the Downtown Eastside and the shooting of mentally ill animator Paul Boyd on Granville Street, the VPD has developed a very good reputation in recent years.
There's a reason why Chief Jim Chu was elected president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. He has the respect of his peers.
Under the leadership of Chu and some capable deputy chiefs, the department policed the city with aplomb during the 2010 Olympics. The VPD has pioneered effective crowd-control methods, which stood in stark contrast to the Toronto police force's dismal handling of the G20 summit.
Vancouver police came under criticism for the Stanley Cup riot, but they actually deserve credit for avoiding any deaths. They directed rioters toward transit stations where the hooligans could leave the city.
The real cause of the riot was the city's decision to allow massive crowds to gather downtown. It was done because Vision Vancouver politicians and their allies in the senior bureaucracy wanted to increase alcohol sales by bars and restaurants. There's not much the police could have done about that.
The VPD has also changed its approach in dealing with the sex trade and promoted more positive community interactions in the Downtown Eastside. Sure, it still comes under criticism from time to time, but it's nothing like the old days.
That's because the VPD often polices as much with its brains as with its brawn.
The RCMP has never been as progressive. The proof is in its continued zeal for advancing the war on drugs, its archaic approach to crowd control, and the chronic complaints of sexism by current and former female officers.
The tasering of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport in 2007 brought the Mounties into disrepute across the country.
One of Palango's books cites a policing expert who says he doesn't want to live in a jurisdiction overseen by the Mounties.
If the sexual assaults aren't solved soon on the Point Grey campus, female students might start echoing a similar sentiment about attending university in a jurisdiction policed by the RCMP.
The university community deserves an honest airing of the pros and cons of keeping the Mounties on campus.
UBC president Stephen Toope has not shied away from public discussion on other controversial topics. As his term winds down, he could leave a lasting positive legacy by beginning a conversation on this topic.