In the new year, business and property owners in downtown Terrace will be able to apply for funding to enhance the safety and security of their businesses.
The Terrace and Downtown Improvement Association (TDIA) and the City of Terrace are both planning for initiatives to provide funding for two separate projects, totalling $20,000, that focus on deterring crime or vagrancy through environmental design.
This could include the installation of extra lighting, removal of graffiti and CCTV exterior surveillance cameras, among others. The city’s bylaw officer will be conducting assessments and providing recommendations to businesses on potential projects.
In this year’s budget, the TDIA allocated $10,000 to create a grant that will match the cost of upgrades up to $200 for businesses in the downtown.
The TDIA draws revenue from a city tax levy applicable to businesses within its boundaries.
The program is part of several safety and security initiatives started by TDIA, which have already included lighting upgrades for several businesses on the 4600 block of Lazelle Avenue.
Although details need to be finalized, TDIA board chair Saša Loggin says the association should start the application process by the end of January.
The program was created to address safety and security concerns of local businesses, Loggin says.
“Before Christmas, we heard of several shoplifting incidents,” she says. “It’s a variety of things. It’s shoplifting, it’s damage to property or any assault to people in the downtown. We kind of see it all.”
The program’s creation also comes after the province’s privacy commissioner ruled the city could not legally install surveillance cameras in public places last year.
“The city wasn’t able to install cameras, but the RCMP always come to businesses to ask if they have cameras for evidence,” she says.
Because the program would fund surveillance cameras for private properties, Loggin says she believes it falls within provincial regulations. However, the association is currently reviewing B.C.’s privacy rules on their installation and will be educating businesses on guidelines.
The City of Terrace has also budgeted for another $10,000 in a matching grant program for business and property owners in Terrace. The Downtown Safety/Security Funding program was proposed last June in a motion led by Coun. James Cordeiro, and the money was allocated during the city’s preliminary five-year budget discussions in December.
City staff recommended the city bolster TDIA’s program with the additional money and let them take the reigns, similar to their facade grant program last year. However, Cordeiro says the city should create a program of their own and be responsible for administering funds to businesses.
“My preference is to not shop it out to somebody else, it’s our money its taxpayer money and I would rather us be a little more responsible as to where that ends up,” Cordeiro said during a December council meeting.
Cordeiro, who owns the Xanders coffee shop downtown, says he would like to see the funding go to “where the problems are greatest,” specifying the downtown core.
“If you talk to business owners or talk to the public in general, or spend three minutes on social media, you’ll see that most people’s consensus is downtown as the problem. That’s putting it pretty mildly and diplomatically,” he says.
“It’s not to say other people don’t have security issues, but where the public feels most of the problem exists, is where [the money] needs to be allocated.”
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 2018 police report to council.
Recently on Dec. 26, Gemma’s Boutique published a photo of graffiti tagged across their front glass panels, reading “I loved someone once” with a separate tag on the other.
There were also reports online that the front bench outside the Happy Gang Centre on Kalum St. was broken last month.
City staff are still organizing criteria and details for applications and will be meeting to discuss their plans with TDIA during the association’s next board meeting Jan. 9.