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Friday , 7 May 2021

City to fund pilot security patrols to night watch downtown

City council will be providing funding for security patrols after reports of more heightened and aggressive behaviour in Cold Lake’s commercial areas.

At Tuesday’s regular meeting, city council agreed to approve $90,000 to go towards developing a business security watch pilot program with consultation from the Cold Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce and downtown businesses.

In a press release, the city said these businesses are increasingly dealing with heightened and more aggressive behaviors towards staff and customers, aggressive panhandling, threats, squatting resulting in extensive property damage, and theft.

“We’ve heard that this behavior is persistent and consistently located in certain areas,” Mayor Craig Copeland said in a press release.

“While we’ve taken steps to address social issues that have been magnified by the economic situation, we cannot ignore the fact that the downtown businesses are seeing potentially dangerous behavior on the rise.”

The city said details regarding patrolling hours and business supports will be finalized in the coming weeks, and the aim is to see the pilot project operate take in mid-February and run for six to 12 months.

Security would act as a deterrent and night watch, but work RCMP and Peace Officers as required for enforcement.

CAO Kevin Nagoya said in the future, the city would like to see another entity take over the program.

“We would like to see a grassroots program developed that is highly responsive to the business community’s needs; not just another program that is operated under the municipality’s umbrella,” said Nagoya in the release.

“The intention is that a business association or the Chamber of Commerce will take over the program and establish financial mechanisms to keep it going in the long term, once it is established.”

In January 2020, dozens of business owners and residents came to city council asking for increased action in lowering vagrancy.

Council has also allocated a total of $200,000 for a 5-year project to establish social programs for vulnerable people in the community, $25,000 for outreach programming for vulnerable people, and has been working closely with Kokum’s House and the Cold Lake John Howard Society in their efforts to re-establish men’s shelters and associated programming in the community.

“Our council is committed to taking this issue on through a number of channels,” Copeland said. “But with behaviour escalating beyond a simple nuisance, council agreed that we need to see a security program up and running.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.