By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The Downtown Oshawa BIA is looking into the possibility of hiring a private security firm to patrol the streets of the city’s central district, and business owners appear to be on board.
According to Garth Johns, the executive director of the BIA, the idea has been kicking around recently among BIA members who have been experiencing some issues when it comes to disruptive behaviour around their businesses.
“Our downtown is no different than anywhere else and we get some unique characters,” he says.
And for that reason, Johns says he’s polled many of the BIA members about the potential for private security, many of whom have said they are on board with the idea.
The specifics have yet to be worked out in terms of cost, but Johns says any decision would need to first be approved by the BIA Board, and any budget would come from the levy that BIA businesses pay as members of the central business district.
For Johns, he says it’s simply a safety and security issue, and not about harassing people on the streets, or moving out vulnerable populations. In fact, Johns says he would like to work closer with the social services agencies in the downtown core, like St. Vincent’s Kitchen, to assist any people who may require their services.
“I see it as part of a four or five pronged approach to things,” he says.
As it stands, the next meeting of the BIA Board is set for July 25. However, Johns doesn’t see the security idea coming forward at that meeting as he still wants to meet with the Durham Regional Police to discuss their thoughts on the matter.
For Darryl Koster, owner of Buster Rhino’s in downtown, he stands behind the idea, noting anything that can help people feel safe downtown is an improvement overall.
“I’ve lived in Oshawa my entire life and the downtown core at one time did have a really bad reputation. The problem is, that’s not the downtown anymore, that’s just not it,” he says. “People just aren’t willing to give downtown a chance, and this is the whole point, they might feel more secure (with security).”
As it stands, the DRPS conduct foot patrols throughout the downtown, and while the BIA has thrown their support behind this initiative, they recognize that at times, police resources are strained.
According to Dave Selby, a spokesperson for DRPS, there is one dedicated foot patrol officer for the downtown core during the week and for the summer months, and two additional officers have been added, who will do various patrols in Oshawa “when time permits.”
“Maintaining a visible presence in the downtown core is part of our community safety strategy and our officers are committed to this,” Selby says. “The BIA reached out to us to express their interest in hiring private security guards to patrol the downtown area. We advised the BIA they could do so, but to understand that most private security firms have ‘no-hands on” policies. We suggested they look at that detail in particular as they weigh the value and cost of a private security option.”
With that said, the security, if hired, would not be there to do the job of police, Koster says.
“The security that we’re hiring is for security purposes only, it’s not there to police, it’s not there to hurt people or move people on,” he says. “It’s there to make people feel secure.”