By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
Oshawa Mayor Dan Carter was in front of the Police Services Board recently pleading for assistance in his city’s downtown.
Speaking to the Durham Regional Police Services (DRPS) Board urging its members to help the needs and challenges of unsheltered individuals, as well as criminal activity in Oshawa’s downtown, Carter asked for a few things.
He asked the board to consider adding more police funding, increased foot patrols, and stronger partnerships in the downtown core.
Carter’s reasoning for asking for help was simple: Oshawa is home to the majority of Durham’s homeless population.
“The board may not be aware of this, but I can say with confidence the City of Oshawa welcomes 80 per cent of the unsheltered population [in Durham],” says Carter. “Since March, we’ve seen people from as far away as Hamilton, as far out as Trenton, and as high as Minden coming to our community and seeking services.”
He says these individuals are not only unsheltered, but many are also dealing with addictions and mental health issues.
“They are struggling to be able to find the pathway forward,” he says.
However, with these individuals has come an increase in criminal behaviour, according to Carter.
“We have a criminal element that wants to take advantage of those individuals that are the most vulnerable in our community,” he says. “What I want to say is that at no time will I ever support anyone coming into our community to victimize any of our residents, citizens or visitors.”
He adds the increase in criminal activity became exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carter says he has received many letters, phone calls and texts from seniors and families, stating the criminal activity is overtaking parks, trails, walkways, businesses, and downtown.
Letters have come from businesses such as Oshawa Public Libraries, the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, and the Oshawa Senior Community Centres (OSCC 55+).
Sandra Black, the executive director of OSCC 55+, writes about what they’ve seen in Memorial Park.
“Over the past year or two and more so in the last few months, we have seen an increase in incidents involving drug transactions, vagrancy, damage to our private property and trespassing,” writes Black.
She goes on to say seniors don’t feel safe in Memorial Park, and it is causing them to stay away from OSCC 55+.
Other letters express similar sentiments, with Oshawa Public Libraries CEO Frances Newman adding there are issues with public intoxication, drug use, verbal harassment, and other illegal activities in the downtown core.
Carter addresses these letters by saying criminal activity in the community cannot be tolerated anymore.
“We’re blessed to have a great division right here in Oshawa, but they also need the resources and support to be able to make sure that we’re not reactive policing, but proactive policing,” he says.
In total, Carter tells the board he has three requests: dedicated and appropriate resources for a Durham Region Anti-Violence Strategy; the continuation of foot patrols in downtown Oshawa; and he asks for DRPS to join with the Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) in starting a CCTV program downtown.
Interim Police Chief Todd Rollauer responded to Carter’s pleas by saying he will see how DRPS can assist.
“I certainly support working with the BIA and the City of Oshawa,” says Rollauer. “I understand there are potentially over 100 cameras in the Oshawa area, and will see what support mechanism we have to solve crime in the downtown area.”