Downtown Guelph resource officers will be a permanent fixture, police board hears – Guelph | The Canadian News

Guelph Police Service Chief Gord Cobey says the center’s resource officer program, which launched in March 2020 as a pilot project, is going nowhere.

The unit consists of four officers and a city center liaison officer assigned to patrol the area within Woolwich, Wellington, Norfolk and Gordon streets.

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Guelph Police will continue to deploy center resource officers after the pilot project ends.

It was formed in response to the growing security problems in the city center, but also to help address the drug use and homelessness that has been seen in the area.

While making arrests and enforcing the law is part of the role, the focus is more on building relationships with businesses, organizations, residents and visitors in the city center.

Most of the work is done on foot, but can also be seen on bike patrols or police patrols.

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The program became permanent in January 2021, but on Thursday, the Guelph Police Services Board received an update on how the unit has been operating after 18 months.

The board heard that while there is still a lot of work to be done downtown, the program is considered a great success so far.

“This will remain a permanent fixture [and] a fundamental piece of the service, ”said Cobey.

The board heard that for the most part, front-line officers have had positive feedback from businesses and the people they speak with, and there have been very few complaints about officers patrolling downtown.

Mayor Cam Guthrie, who is on the police board, said he has heard wonderful things about the unit and how it has kept the community safe.

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“The way you also interact with everyone who needs help or is just lending a hand or directing people to the right resources they may need,” Guthrie told the Sgt. Dustan Howe, who oversees the show.

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Howe said that so far, 12 officers have rotated between the four positions since it was launched and another four are about to come aboard.

Const. Mark O’Connell has been the sole downtown liaison officer during the project, but the familiar face in the area has been off work since he was injured in a car accident in early August.

Howe said that in addition to bringing in four new officers, they are trying to identify a replacement for O’Connell, who has played the lead role of officers joining the unit.

Part of his training involved spending time with O’Connell on duty and getting to know the area, local outreach organizations, and businesses.

In 2020, around 680 arrests were made at the center and more than 3,800 charges were filed. For this year, Howe reported that about 750 arrests are on the way with a similar number of charges.

The figures include only criminal and drug charges and no traffic tickets, although Howe said road safety is an important component of safety in the city center.

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The service has also recovered several stolen vehicles and other property, and at least $ 30,000 worth of drugs and suspected drug money have been seized, Howe said.

He also added that while there are five officers who have a focus on the center, the unit receives support from various other units, responding to calls or proactive patrols in the area.

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As for what’s next, Howe said there is room for the unit to improve.

“Identifying what is best for the community, including the homeless and those seeking equity, is critical to downtown,” Howe said.

“There have been discussions about how best to serve members of the public. We recognize that the problems facing the city center are complicated and multifaceted and we know that other jurisdictions face similar problems. “

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He said that multifaceted problems need multifaceted solutions.

He also added that keeping downtown safe has to be a collaborative approach between the service and the entire downtown community, including the Guelph Community Health Center, the Downtown Guelph Business Association, and outreach organizations like Drop- In Center and HOPE House.

He pointed to the Welcoming Streets Initiative that sees a social worker supporting business owners by responding to situations that do not require police assistance. The worker also engages with vulnerable residents to ensure they are connected to available services.

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Chief Cobey added that just having officers present and visible has made a difference.

“There may be some of the things that we can’t capture in traditional statistics, but just being visible and seeing our members at the center really means a lot to the center community,” Cobey said.

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