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City considers taking over responsibility for downtown security patrols

Private security is not a mandated responsibility for business improvement areas like our Downtown Association. Should they be spending money for that?
2021-03-19 Queen near Bruce
File photo

City officials are quietly looking at assuming responsibility for patrols of Queenstown by private security.

For the past year, Sault Ste. Marie's Downtown Association has been paying for nightly patrols of Queen Street by a private security contractor.

For about $18,000 a year, we get two or three sweeps of the core area.

But concerns have been expressed recently about whether the patrols are accomplishing anything, and whether the money could be better spent.

The Sault's Downtown Association is one of more than 270 business improvement areas (BIAs) across Ontario, whose member businesses pay a special levy along with their property taxes to promote the area as a business or shopping district and perform other related functions.

Salvatore Marchese, the Downtown Association's executive director, says providing private security patrols is outside the formal mandate of a BIA.

"There's only a few BIAs that provide security," Marchese told the November meeting of his board of directors."However, that does not mean that it cannot be provided."

Recently, there's been growing concern within his board about the monthly security costs.

"It may be beyond the scope of the BIA, and we could doing other activities that reinforce positive behaviours in the downtown, such as activating the streets and doing things to encourage people to come downtown. When the downtown is busy, these kinds of incidents tend to be reduced."

Sault Ste. Marie Police Service also patrols the downtown.

"Whenever they have time when they're not on calls they've been attending to the downtown," Marchese said.

The association's security contractor, KC Security Services, was asked whether any cost reduction was possible.

KC indicated, according to Marchese, that it would consider a lower price if the Downtown Association would consider a longer-term commitment.

It was also willing to quote on an all-night patrol car.

But then, the association was approached by Tom Vair, the city's deputy chief administrative officer for community development and enterprise services.

"The city reached out again that they are bringing up security at City Council," Marchese said.

Vair asked whether the association might be willing to give $5,000 a year to the city, which would then issue its own request for proposals for security patrols.

That would be less than a third of what the association is currently paying.

The Downtown Association is planning to hold a special meeting with Vair to discuss that, and also the city's plans for an downtown uniformed Ambassador Program.

Other news from the Downtown Association's November meeting:

  • the association will submit a bid to host the Ontario Business Improvement Association's annual conference in 2024, in time to show off the new downtown plaza. If our bid is successful, the cost of sponsoring the event will $10,000
  • concerns were expressed by board members about drivers endangering public safety by going 40 to 50 kilometres an hour during the recent Halloween on Queen event, although the event was generally considered a great success