Black Press archive photo of a B.C. public works employee demonstrating how to pick up discarded needles.

More police officers wanted for Terrace: city

Downtown safety, accessibility the focus of several new initiatives

In response to public safety concerns, the City of Terrace has announced several new initiatives targeting crime and public safety in the downtown area.

The projects include a new task force to manage used drug paraphernalia, such as needles discarded in public spaces, and an updated Downtown Plan and Design Guidelines to prioritize pedestrian use, comfort and safety.

But at the top of the list, the city will also be requesting B.C.’s Ministry of Public Safety to increase the number of authorized RCMP members to 28 from the current 25. The intent is to strengthen the RCMP’s Crime Reduction Unit in the downtown area.

Although the detachment is currently authorized for 25 members, the city is only budgeting for 24, and last year due to availability of officers there were only 21.5. Detachments nation-wide often struggle to fill their ranks to capacity due to several factors, including maternity and paternity leave, sick leave, transfers and travel for ongoing training. By authorizing Terrace for 28, the city hopes to see 25 on the street.

“This has been in the works for some time,” chief administrative officer Heather Avison said. “Increasing the [authorized] number will give our new inspector more to work with…it’s really tricky to hit the sweet spot.”

Recent data released by Statistics Canada indicates Terrace holds the highest crime rate in B.C., as compared to other small municipalities of more than 10,000 residents. The top offenses were property crime, mischief and disturbances of the peace, the last of which racked up 1,048 violations requiring substantial police resources. The number translates to a rate of 9,281 occurrences per 100,000 persons, far out-pacing the B.C. average of 899.

In what are considered hot spots of unlawful behaviour in the heart of the downtown business community, Terrace RCMP last year received 83 calls to Brolly Square and 158 calls to George Little Park, according to a January police report to council. The offenses were overwhelmingly related to public disturbance and intoxication, followed by assaults of varying degrees.

As part of the request for more officers the city will need to confirm its 70 per cent financial commitment of $123,000 per member. This translates to a one-per-cent tax increase. The matter will be discussed by council during the 2019 budget deliberations in November, following municipal elections.

The push on crime reduction dovetails into the city’s official Downtown Plan currently being revised to incorporate recent community feedback for the prioritizing of downtown safety, in addition to beautification objectives that enhance pedestrian traffic and comfort.

Following recent incidents of used needles found in parks and doorways, council has instructed city staff to form an emergency task force to establish procedures of dealing with and disposing of these and other items that pose a threat to public health.

In June the city authorized the Leisure Services Department to conduct morning patrols and safety sweeps of playgrounds, ball fields and parking lots after discarded needles were found by residents and tourists. The city will now look to local stakeholders, such as Northern Health, to form the emergency task force.

The city has also renewed its commitment to breaking ground Aug. 2 on a 52-unit housing project in partnership with Ksan Housing Society and the B.C. Ministry of Municipal Affairs’ under the province’s Rapid Response to Homelessness program.

What to do if you find drug paraphernalia

If you find drug paraphernalia, such as a needle, on public or private property within the City of Terrace please contact the Leisure Services Department at 250-615-3000 and a staff member will be dispatched to safely dispose of the item.

If this occurs outside of regular business hours take the following steps if you are comfortable doing so:

• Do not try to put the cap back on the needle. Do not snap, remove, or bend needles either.

• Pick the needle up carefully with tongs or pliers. Ensure the needle tip is pointing down and away from you.

• Put the needle in a hard plastic container, tightly seal and label it.

• Take the plastic container to the Terrace Public Health Unit at 3412 Kalum Street or the Emergency Room at Mills Memorial Hospital.

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