City of Terrace council considered options for hiring bylaw and community safety officers (CSO) to beef up summer security downtown during a March 22 committee of the whole meeting.
“We really do need to take back our town, it is beyond acceptable and we need to start putting some skin in the game if we can,” Mayor Carol Leclerc said at the meeting referring to growing frustrations of shoplifting, petty crime and anti-social behaviour primarily within the downtown core.
Much of the discussion was focused on making short and long-term plans for bylaw officers and CSO staffing.
Council considered hiring a second regular bylaw officer or two temporary bylaw officers for the summer months. The City of Terrace has two bylaw positions, with one vacant since late 2021. It also has one CSO — also called a downtown safety officer — on a one-year contract using money from the Union of BC Municipalities. A CSO is similar to a bylaw officer, but is focused on public safety in the downtown area and connecting vulnerable people with services.
Another option councillors talked about was having two full time positions that merge the duties of a bylaw officer with those of a CSO.
There was no consensus on what exact route the city will pursue, but council directed staff to return at an upcoming council meeting with a report on immediate options such as using the city’s accumulated surplus or from a provincial grant meant to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff will also look into other grant opportunities.
Kris Boland, chief administrative officer, also talked about the possibility of assessing the situation each time an RCMP officer transfers out of Terrace, because money saved because of vacant RCMP positions could be used for more CSO or bylaw officers. Boland said that there have been 10 or 11 RCMP transfers out of Terrace in the past year.
“It’s just frustrating that these impacts on our community are something that we are now being burdened with non-stop, issues that are really provincial issues and we continue to have to shoulder them and essentially pay for them,” Coun. Sean Bujtas said at the meeting.
“Putting a small fix on it is not enough, we need more, but you’ve got to start somewhere too, so if we grow it, we start with small numbers downtown and we continue to grow it I think that’s a fair step.”
Last summer, the city spent $54,000 on private security for the downtown area between June and September. In 2020, two seasonal bylaw officers were hired using a grant from LNG Canada and in 2019 the Terrace Downtown Improvement Area, which is supported by a city levy on downtown businesses, hired Northern Valley Rangers – a Nisga’a-based security company from the Nass Valley.
“We need to get something happening so that people feel safe in the downtown, that the businesses feel safe, that the customers feel safe,” Leclerc said.