Two bylaw officers are being added to downtown Sudbury in hopes of improving security and providing a quicker response to problems.
The seven-month pilot project will cost $275,000, and will be funded by using $225,000 from the Ontario Cannabis Legalization Implementation Fund. The remainder will come from the downtown Sudbury BIA.
The motion approved Monday by the finance and administration committee would see two bylaw officers “provide mobile security response at the Greater Sudbury Downtown Transit Hub and for all City of Greater Sudbury facilities and properties within the downtown core.
“This incorporates facilities and properties associated with transit, parks, arenas, libraries and housing.”
The bylaw officers could provide backup to security guards facing difficulties or be deployed in areas “where uniformed security is not part of the service delivery.” They would work 16 hours a day beginning at 8:30 a.m. and be supplemented by part-time staff.
Brendan Adair, manager of bylaw and security, said the bylaw officers would respond to incidents downtown that are troublesome, but either not serious enough to call in police, or ones that would be a lower priority for police compared to other calls they receive.
“Right now, we just don’t have the bodies to respond to the incidents in the downtown core,” Adair said.
The pilot project would likely run from April to November, he said, and staff would collect data over the seven months and prepare a report on its effectiveness.
Ward 5 Coun. Bob Kirwan said there are three to four arrests a month around the bus terminal, in addition to several more calls to police that don't lead to charges.
With the money and time invested in reforming the GOVA transit system, Kirwan said the city needs to ensure passengers feel safe when they take the bus.
“I have people in my ward who will not take transit because they would have to go to the downtown transit terminal,” he said.
Considering some retired police are bylaw officers, and have the experience to deal with these issues, Kirwan said he hopes they will apply for the spots.
But Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier wondered how effective the bylaw officers would be when they are not police, and not social workers. If someone refuses to listen to them, exactly what are their options, he asked.
“What are we trying to achieve?” Cormier said. “What do we want them to do? We don’t want them to get into a physical altercation.”
He questioned spending $275,000 for two staff covering a 12-block radius downtown, when other areas of the city can’t get timely bylaw response because of limited staffing.
“I have reservations about this.”
Adair said other cities have had success with a similar approach. The bylaw officers can arrest people for trespassing and issue tickets for bylaw violations, he said, but just having an added security presence will provide a benefit.
“We are not taking on police work,” Adair said. “It may be as simple as asking someone to leave.”