The Terrace Downtown Improvement Area (TDIA) society has hired a local security company to run daytime patrols to improve public safety.
The Northern Valley Rangers have been patrolling downtown Terrace to help with excessive loitering and to gather reports on any crime-related activity, starting March 4.
“We’re trying to understand what has changed, why we’re seeing more people and needles downtown,” says Saša Loggin, chair of the TDIA. “We’ve been hearing from customers that some of them don’t feel safe coming at different times to downtown, which of course affects local businesses and anybody there.”
The TDIA society formed seven years ago to represent all the businesses downtown and lead a collective support to improve the main city core. The city of Terrace collects an annual levy from each business that totals up to $110,000 per year, which is then given to the TDIA to use towards community projects and events.
The two-month pilot project is a part-time contract of 22 hours per week and is costing the TDIA approximately $18,000 — which Loggin says is at a discounted rate as part of their joint initiative with the security company to improve public safety. Generally, two guards are on patrol at various parts of the day for four hours at a time to circle the downtown area, including the casino and the CN rail tracks.
The project is unrelated to the pilot program launched by local banks on Feb. 4 who contracted Securiguard to monitor ATM vestibules during nighttime hours.
Loggin says TDIA has been looking to get a mobile security team out on the streets for more than a year but wanted to work with a company that shares their values.
“What’s really important to us is that when they’re interacting with anybody on the street that the interaction is compassionate, that it’s opening up a conversation,” Loggin says. “We really like the fact that they are local and that they know people in this community.”
The Northern Valley Rangers are a Nisga’a-based security company from the Nass Valley that was formed in 2015. Owner-operator John Clayton says their aim is to minimize “unwanted activity” in a caring way.
“Being a First Nations’ company, it’s easier to deal with First Nations if you are a First Nations because it is a touchy subject,” he says.
“[People] on the streets, a lot of them don’t have anybody that really cares for them and it’s a harsh thing to say but it’s a fact. Some people are forgotten and some need a push in the right direction, which gets back to us being a company that cares — with them being First Nations, we can understand what they’re going through.”
Loggin echos Clayton’s perspective. She says that there are many problems that can be rooted back to historical trauma such as residential schools and other forms of discrimination towards First Nations. By having somebody who could build a good repertoire with some of those struggling with addiction and homelessness, she hopes that they can help humanize the issues.
As part of their work, the Northern Valley Rangers submit a daily report to TDIA on any incidents or patterns they’ve noticed while on shift. The document is intended to help TDIA make structured decisions on how to make improvements downtown that may deter some of the ongoing issues.
Clayton adds there are lots of good people on the streets so whenever they need to intervene, they will always ask there’s anything they could help with first and then try to clearly explain the issue.
“If things get too heated, we retreat and then call the RMCP… we never put our hands on anybody, we’re just here to observe, record and report.”
The Northern Valley Rangers have begun monitoring “problem areas” and connecting with local businesses. They drive around in old police interceptor vehicles that still have the push bar and lights on the back, which Clayton says is a “highly visible deterrent” that often encourages loiterers to move along. He plans to repaint them black with red stripes to represent the Nisga’a Nation, which is proud to have been given the opportunity to help, he says.
After only a few days into the job, it seems Terrace is noticing the Rangers’ presence.
“We’re getting a lot of good feedback, the public especially are so happy that we’re out there,” says Clayton. “It gives them a sense of security, for them to go into the banks and businesses.”
For Clayton, it was pleasant to see how welcoming both the RCMP and the bylaw officer were to the Northen Valley Rangers. He says it’s reassuring to know they can work together to alleviate the problems.
“They refer to us as officers, and not as security guards…and that surprised me,” he says. “We’re not out there to be police officers, but we all care and we want to see things move in the right direction.”
As part of the TDIA’s movement to improve public safety downtown, they also put $10,000 aside to offer a matching grant of up to $500 to each business owner to help reduce crime by changing their “environmental designs.”
“In a perfect world, I would really like to see us engage with people who are currently on the streets struggling and engage them back into society in a meaningful way,” says Loggin. “Hopefully there are more resources like shelters being open all day and there’s programming for people to help them to find something to do.”