Less money means fewer problems for Tofino’s bylaw enforcement department, which saw its revenue from fines halved this year due to a plummet in illegal camping tickets.
The district collected $25,112 from fines in 2022, down from $43,380 in 2021.
“Probably one of the biggest reasons for the big decrease (is) in August of 2021 we had 53 tickets paid for vehicles used for camping, which is $160 per ticket, and in August of 2022 there was only seven of those tickets. We actually had 300 less of those tickets issued this year,” explained Tofino’s manager of protective services Brent Baker in a presentation to council on Nov. 24. “Throughout the course of the year, there was a significant decline in the number of vehicles used for camping.”
Baker told the Westerly News after the meeting that there were no changes to enforcement that would have caused less illegal campers to be caught, but simply less being reported.
Tofino mayor Dan Law told the Westerly News last week that he was “pleased but also not surprised” to see illegal camping numbers sink so dramatically.
“Not only did our bylaw do an excellent job with education and enforcement, we also had our communications department working on getting the word out and at the same time there was a regional push to respond to and deal with illegal and unauthorized camping,” he said.
“All of those things worked together to get the message out that illegal camping and unauthorized camping in Tofino and in the wider region was not acceptable and no longer tolerated.”
He added that tourists often arrive on the West Coast expecting a laid back approach and the ability to sleep in their vehicles anywhere, but safety, sanitary and environmental concerns rose to the point that a crackdown was necessary.
“I understand that people have had that collective memory of the 60’s and 70’s where people camped on the beaches, but those days are gone,” he said. “Certainly in Tofino it had gone to completely the next level as well as Ucluelet and it just was not acceptable.”
He thanked the district’s bylaw team for their work under tough situations.
“Bylaw is probably one of the toughest jobs in the district because sooner or later people think that the laws shouldn’t apply to them, they should apply to other people,” he said. “At some point, bylaw has to go in and deal with that situation and it’s often very difficult. People can be angry and defensive…Our bylaw officers always start with education and voluntary compliance, that is the basis of every interaction.”
He added that council has received letters from visitors who have had positive experiences with local bylaw officers.
“These people are so professional and nice, essentially, to talk to that even when people are getting a warning or education on the actual bylaws or even a ticket, they say ‘That was the most pleasant experience I’ve ever had with a bylaw officer,’” Law said. “It just goes to show that our bylaw officers are doing an exceptional job. They are very professional in their interactions and that message is starting to get out. Hopefully, it becomes increasingly unacceptable to deal with our bylaw officers in a negative fashion. I very much hope that some of the abuse that our bylaw officers have received will go down and people will realize that our society works because we have laws for the good of all and, at some point, you have to enforce those laws.”