Toronto to hire private security guards to patrol parks in effort to keep encampments from popping up

Some Toronto parks could soon see private security guards on patrol around the clock as part of the city’s effort to keep encampments from appearing.

Brad Ross, a spokesperson for the city, confirmed to CP24 Wednesday that the city has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for contracted security to keep watch of its parks.

“The contracted security guards will help ensure that city parks are safe and accessible to all residents of Toronto, including unfettered access to green space for safe outdoor recreation,” Ross said in a statement.

“On site contracted security will monitor high priority parks 24 hours a day and advise the City immediately if any illegal tent or structure is erected in a park.”

In the statement, Ross reiterated that camping in parks is “unhealthy and illegal” and noted that the city continues to offer indoor accommodation and services to those experiencing homelessness.

The city said the guards will be deployed Trinity-Bellwoods Park, Alexandra Park and Lamport Stadium Park — the sites the city targeted for encampment clearing last year. It added that Dufferin Grove will also see additional security guards.

The city noted that in addition to the guards, its corporate security staff will also be present in other parks “to ensure they remain safe and prevent encampments from being established.”

The cost of the project has not been determined pending the closing of the RFP.

The story was first reported by CBC.

This would not be the city’s first time hiring private security guards to deal with encampments. In 2021, the city contracted private guards as part of its staff that enforced trespass notices at its downtown parks and cleared out homeless encampments, which led to violent clashes between police and protesters.

Earlier this month, internal documents revealed the city spent months planning to clear about two dozen people from a homeless encampment at Trinity-Bellwoods Park, building dossiers on the residents and involving hundreds of municipal workers in the process.

The city spent nearly $2 million last year dismantling the encampments and restoring the parks.

Doug Johnson Hatlem, a street pastor with Sanctuary Toronto, called the city’s approach ‘not right,’ saying that it shows how local officials do not want to do what it takes to tackle housing affordability and the issue of homelessness properly.

“Cracking down with extra security guards is just going to mean that the problem moves to other parks, to ravines. There are more than 1000 parks in the city. And if they’re gonna hire security guards to go to all of them, I guess they can do that. But it’s a big waste of money,” Hatlem said.

“I think the disconnect comes in wanting to take an easy route, rather than a short term difficult route that will have long term dividends,” he added.

– With files from The Canadians Press

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