Council approves money to beef up downtown security

Officials also hope to increase number of officers

City of Terrace officials have approved the purchase of protective safety vests, similar to what the police wear, for its downtown security officers. (Contributed photo)

A downtown security force that could number up to four officers was sketched out in a presentation to city council by development services director David Block when councillors met Nov. 14 to consider his request for $50,000 to move the plan along.

All four positions would be financed by grants with Block hoping to hear if the city will get the money by early next year. In the interim, Block told council the city already has a grant for one-year to hire one officer, a person now in Prince George who is making arrangements to move to Terrace.

A second officer, already in Terrace, would be hired immediately with $30,000 of the $50,000 requested by Block. That would be enough money for three to four months until the city hears if its grant applications were successful.

One grant application is before the Union of BC Municipalities for one officer for one year and the second is before the Northern Development Initiative Trust for two officers for three years.

Block told council the need for downtown security officers, officially called community safety officers, grew out of the expanded work requirements that were first handed to the city’s bylaw officers arising from the increase in anti-social behaviour and street crime of the past several years.

“I probably heard that term two years ago for the first time,” said Block of community safety officer or downtown safety officer job descriptions.

If all the grant applications were successful the city could conceivably have a uniformed force of six people — four downtown officers and the two existing bylaw officers, Block said.

Having more officers would mean an increased presence on the city streets at night and on weekends, he emphasized.

The downtown officers and the bylaw officers would, however, have distinctive and separate uniforms to better define their roles, Block said.

“They’re not a social service agency, but they kind of play a role of advocacy and engagement in a relational role with individuals and businesses,” Block said.

But the recent stabbing death of a Richmond RCMP officer who was out with a Richmond bylaw officer at a park where a person was living in a tent has highlighted the need for protective equipment, he continued.

Vests to protect officers from sharp objects, with each costing up to $2,000, and radios for immediate communication, topped the list of how the remaining $20,000 from Block’s $50,000 request would be spent.

“Daily interaction with street-entrenched individuals has been an ongoing concern,” Block told council.

City bylaw officers have been threatened and already have suffered assaults of a minor nature.

Councillor James Cordeiro did wonder if batons would be provided to downtown officers.

“We’re very reluctant to provide tools that might be seen to be offensive tools, not just defensive,” Block replied in saying city officials are trying to find a balance as to how the downtown officers would be perceived and the need for safety.

“The more gear on an individual the more they look like they’re law enforcement and the perception of some of our street-entrenched folks to law enforcement is negative and that makes it hard for someone who’s trying to be relational and to engage,” said Block.

Council did approve of Block’s request for the $50,000. It comes from a grant from the provincial government originally meant for COVID-recovery situations.

Municipal GovernmentSecurity

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