City council sees value in keeping open the community policing office that been recommended for closure.
Nanaimo city council, at its meeting Monday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, voted 6-2 in favour of a staff recommendation to re-brand the Victoria Crescent community policing and services office, come up with a business plan or strategy to keep it open, and engage with service and resource providers downtown. Staff recommends the office be re-named the community resources office.
Staff advised that at a public safety meeting, several people expressed the opinion that the office had value.
“There is an increase in negative interactions with individuals on the street, perception of lack of public safety and available resources in the downtown core area,” noted a staff report.
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Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said there are misconceptions about the office, which hasn’t actually been used for community policing since 2009. According to the staff report, the office is utilized by bylaw enforcement staff, parking patrollers and a parking clerk.
“I think there’s a perception that that office has been manned and it hasn’t been,” Armstrong said. “They’ll drop in to say hi or whatever, but it’s not manned. I think there’s this perception there that police are there a lot and I don’t really think that’s accurate.”
Randy Humchitt, who spoke Monday as a representative of both the Nanaimo Association for Community Living and the Victoria Crescent Association, said the community policing office “does send a little bit of an optical message that safety is a priority. That’s what we think.”
Coun. Ian Thorpe said from what he’s heard, downtown merchants, neighbourhood association members and others are “quite adamant” that the community policing office has value as a presence in that area.
“How many times have we sat at this table and heard about the problems of civil disorder and increased unrest in our downtown core?” Thorpe asked. “This is an opportunity to take a step or at least look at strategies to use this office to help combat the problem.”
Coun. Diane Brennan agreed, saying, “This is an opportunity for us to show the merchants downtown and the people that live downtown that we’re serious about changing the shape and the face of downtown.”
Coun. Gord Fuller said the office could be used by a recently announced community action team tasked with addressing the overdose crisis, and suggested that the office could also be used by other service providers.
Councillors Bill Bestwick and Jim Kipp voted against looking into re-branding the office and keeping it open. Bestwick referenced the potential $38,000 savings identified in the core review and pointed out the office’s proximity to other city buildings.
“It’s a really difficult one for me to say that we shouldn’t relocate [bylaw staff] a block away and invest that $40,000 savings … into another person or two or wherever the need is the most to service the concerns,” he said.
Coun. Jerry Hong, a downtown business owner, removed himself from the discussion due to perceived conflict of interest.