A longtime volunteer for Greater Sudbury’s Citizens on Patrol program is enthused to see the police board consider its reinstatement during 2023 budget deliberations.
“I think it’s a good service,” Copper Cliff Citizens on Patrol captain Theo Reed said of the neighbourhood watch program in which volunteers drive around communities in decommissioned police vehicles to patrol streets.
“Anything that can restart the program, even if it’s in limited areas like downtown and Copper Cliff” would be a good thing, he said. “Anything is better with nothing as far as I’m concerned.”
Reed has been advocating for the program’s return in recent years, after it shut down at the start of the pandemic.
In the Greater Sudbury Police Service’s proposed budget, which was tabled last week, Citizens on Patrol is described as a “community-based crime prevention initiative that aims to report suspicious, disruptive, and criminal behaviour.”
The program was introduced locally in 2003 and put into action in June 2005 under the city’s Leisure Services Division. In 2007, the police board was asked to take it over.
Patrol vehicles near the end of their deployable lives were used for patrol functions, which were based out of various storefront offices throughout the city, including those in Capreol, Kukagami, Valley East, Walden, 720 Bruce Street, Coniston, Azilda, Copper Cliff and the main police headquarters at 190 Brady Street.
During their last year of full operations in 2019, the program had 111 active volunteers who volunteered a total of 2,142 hours, undertaking 409 patrols totalling 1,160 patrol hours in which they covered 16,886 kilometres.
Since the program was shut down at the start of the pandemic, the infrastructure previously in place is no longer there, including facilities and vehicles.
The proposed budget has the program return at a reduced size to include 50 volunteers operating out of police headquarters at 190 Brady Street and the Lionel E. Lalonde Centre. As police vehicles are taken out of service, they will be allotted to the Citizens on Patrol program.
It’s recommended they have four vehicles instead of the nine previously assigned prior to its shut-down.
By cutting these costs and excluding a volunteer co-ordinator position, the Citizens on Patrol program is tentatively scheduled to cost $54,642 if approved in 2023.
When the program was suspended, its annual budget totalled $169,145, which included a volunteer co-ordinator position.
Reed said he’s confident volunteers can get the program rolling again swiftly, though some fresh training will be required.
Newcomers face eight hours of training, he said, adding that since the program has been inactive for three years he’d expect returning members to also require some retraining upon their return.
The program is useful when it comes to community patrols, helping elderly citizens and preventing crime, he said, adding the extra vehicles on the road look like police vehicles so serve the purpose of increasing the appearance of a police presence.
In a recent public survey, Greater Sudbury Police reported that 40 per cent of respondents believe more patrols and police visibility will improve community safety.
Not everyone is in agreement, and Black Lives Matter Sudbury said last week that they denounce the proposed return of the Citizens on Patrol program.
This, “as with all forms of policing within our community,” they said via emailed correspondence with Sudbury.com in which they also oppose the proposals for a 6.7 per cent police budget increase and the addition of 24 new sworn members to their ranks within three years.
BLM Sudbury is advocating for these funds to instead go toward social services such as mental health supports and community-based initiatives that work to reduce harm which community members experience.
The police board is scheduled to debate the proposed budget on Jan. 12, and their decision is to be sent to the finance and administration committee of city council’s Jan. 17 agenda.
The police board includes its chairperson (and Ward 8 Coun.) Al Sizer, Mayor Paul Lefebvre (last week’s meeting was his first on the board after being elected to city council on Oct. 24), Frances Caldarelli, Lise Poratto-Mason and Richard Bois.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.