Public safety concerns and suggestions were heard by Parksville council at a committee of the whole meeting (COW) on May 6.
The meeting was the first of four that will take place to discuss strategic priorities for the city that were heard at mayor Ed Mayne’s roundtable in January.
“There’s some of the things that we’ve already started and some we’ve even completed,” Mayne said during the meeting. “One of the recommendations from the roundtable was to stop panhandling downtown and we have developed and implemented the bylaw to regulate panhandling and it has started to work. Overall, the amount of panhandling in the downtown core has dropped huge.”
Other recommendations from the roundtable event, for potential actions to enhance public safety, included establishing a policy for proactive bylaw enforcement, which Mayne says has been completed and enhancing CCTV surveillance in key locations.
“The budget has been approved for 2019 so we can do that. We need to put more cameras in the park,” Mayne said.
Improve lighting in the downtown core, implement a rebate program for purchase and installation of security cameras in homes and businesses and investigate grant opportunities for enhancing public safety were also among the recommendations.
Audience members had the opportunity to voice their concerns and provide suggestions around public safety during the meeting.
The first speaker asked what citizens can do to increase the likelihood of a response by the RCMP when calling in to report open drug use.
“I’d like to explore solutions for increasing the response time or the follow through with open illegal drug use,” the woman said. “I think together we can try to increase efficiencies on how those concerns are being addressed.”
The woman said she called 911 last week regarding a person outside her place of work in downtown Parksville who was in a “drug-induced frenzy.” She said law enforcement did not show up and nobody followed up with her.
“Is there something that we’re saying that’s not being taken seriously?” she asked.
Oceanside RCMP staff Sgt. Marc Pelletier, who was in attendance at the meeting, said he was surprised no one attended a 911 call.
He said a person using illicit drugs in public could be charged with possession of narcotics.
“Is it a 911 call? If it’s in the act and [they’re] doing it right in front of you, sure, call 911 but if we’ve got accidents going on or a break-and-enter in progress we’re attending that way before we go to a guy using drugs,” Pelletier said.
The next audience suggestion was to hold an event to promote Oceanside Community Safety and help recruit people to volunteer as citizens on patrol.
“If there’s a big public event more people might be inclined to come down,” the woman said.
Mike Garland, Oceanside Community Safety volunteer, who was in attendance at the meeting, said there are about 70 people currently trained as citizens on patrol.
“The challenge we have is getting people who are willing to go out at 1 a.m.,” Garland said. “A lot of crime is happening between the hours of 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.”
Another audience member spoke about concerns over people driving over the speed limit, particularly near a park on Sanderson Road.
Wrapping up the meeting, Coun. Mark Chandler made a motion to direct staff to work with RCMP to investigate having auxiliary RCMP members declared as peace officers which would enable them to do proactive bicycle policing and independent patrols in vehicles in the downtown core.
“We’re in a situation where we have a lot of very concerned citizens, we have a lot of theft going on,” Chandler said. “ We have at least eight [auxiliary officers] trained here in this city, fully trained ready to do most everything. I think this would be an amazing opportunity to bring them into the fold and help with the amount of calls right now.”
The next COW meeting is on May 22 at 4:14 p.m. and will focus on recreation and health care.