Nanaimo city council reinstated downtown security after funding for the service had run out.
On Monday at a committee of the whole meeting at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, Nanaimo councillors voted unanimously to restore funding for security guards downtown.
Kevan Shaw, president of the Victoria Crescent Association, made the request to councillors.
“We’re witnessing increases in downtown lawlessness, aggressive panhandling, open illegal drug use, defecation and assaults,” he said. “Some RCMP are now telling me it’s the worst they have ever seen it. Security says it is the worst.”
Tracy Samra, city chief administrative officer, said the community vitality committee and public safety committee are both looking at the issue and said the city has also been undertaking public engagement around downtown safety. But she said that the budget for security guards through Footprints Security Patrol had run out and there weren’t sufficient funds in that city department for the remainder of the fiscal year.
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Councillors talked about different ways to address the issue including a task force.
“That’s a discussion to have and we need to have it, but we need to put that support back in place,” said Coun. Diane Brennan, speaking in support of Coun. Bill Yoachim’s motion to restore funding for security.
Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said she agrees that some of the issues Shaw mentioned are getting worse, but stressed that the city doesn’t have the money to pay for all the programs and services necessary.
“Until there’s a significant influx of provincial and federal dollars, we’re going to be stuck with a lot of issues because there’s no capabilities at the hospital to house these people, there’s no places where they’re a resident, it’s just a revolving door,” she said. “So until we can get some commitments from the federal and provincial government, I don’t believe this all needs to fall on the city’s hands. I know that part of it does.”
Coun. Ian Thorpe said in speaking with downtown merchants lately, they’re expressing frustration and anger and say things have gotten worse.
“[When] they go out to get a cup of coffee and have to cross the street, they call it running the gauntlet,” Thorpe said. “And it’s just not a safe situation for our downtown business people or tourists or residents.”
He said it’s “the very least we can do” to reinstate security guards.
The motion carried unanimously. No dollar figure was specified on Monday, but a city report from the bylaw, regulation and security section in September requested $25,000 to continue security patrols until the end of 2017.