Special police patrols and private security are doing precious little to clean up Queenstown, according to Downtown Association directors.
"We're trying our best but it doesn't seem to be doing anything," says Frank Gaccione, a member of the association's board.
"What do we have to do to make it work?" Gaccione asked at the board's October meeting.
"There has to be something. Some city has to have a good system."
"I can't believe every city has the same issues we do. I'm sure they do have the same issues, but what are they doing to prevent it?" Gaccione asked.
Gaccione was one of several Downtown Association directors expressing concern that downtown crime is getting worse, not better.
"Crime prevention and crime reduction are ultimately the goals here," said Kelly Walker from the Sleep Inn.
"Are we seeing the impact we were hoping for? No, we aren't," Walker told the Wednesday-night board meeting.
"As a business operator on Bay Street, I'm attesting to that. I see the incidents increasing in our area," she said.
In April 2020 – just one month into the pandemic – KC Security Services was retained by the Downtown Association to perform mobile patrols on Queen Street.
Daniel Laprade, president of KC Security, advises that the service was stopped after three months in 2020 and started again on May 17 of this year.
Salvatore Marchese, the business group's executive director, said KC reported seven incidents during the past month, including cases of loitering, an emotionally distressed person, and mischief (people digging through dumpsters behind CTV).
City staff are "still working through the channels to get their programs implemented," Marchese said, with Tom Vair, the city's deputy chief administrative officer for community development and enterprise services, planning to take the issue back to City Council for further direction.
In the meantime, police will continue their 'dynamic' patrols at least through the remainder of October, Marchese told his board.
The Downtown Association renews KC Security's contract on a month-to-month bases but the cost is greater than originally budgeted, he said.
"I'm not exactly sure what areas they're focusing on at the moment. It just seems to be more minor things that they're picking up on and less of the major," Walker pointed out.
Gaccione wants to see more surveillance cameras, but Walker doesn't think that will help much.
"I have cameras in my business," Walker said.
"I've provided direct one-on-one photos of the individuals who have caused issues in my property, and there's been no arrests."
"We're talking at least six incidents within a short amount of time."
Walker suggested it might be a good time to to talk to KC Security about ideas they might have.
Gaccione says the Downtown Association needs to look for a long-term resolution instead of just approving the paid patrols month-by-month.
"Do we want to keep doing this for years and years, or do we want to keep doing it until what happens? What are we waiting on to happen for us to stop the security?" he said.
Board chair Kristi Cistaro from Stork & Bundle talked about damage to vehicles in her block.
"I'm struggling to see if it's really helping," she said of the police and private security efforts.
Director Paul Mason talked about last week's golf-club assault in his Albert Street neighbourhood.
"It's tough. Stuff's not getting better."
"It's good that we're doing something but is it actually accomplishing anything?"
"I feel it's necessary but at what point do we stop? I don't see an end in sight right now, for the near future."
"The police have really stepped it up. That's great. We've had patrols the last three months. That's their job. It's not our job to police downtown."
Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Vezeau-Allen, a member of the local police board, said the special police patrols will continue seven days a week.
Each patrol is four to six hours long, she said.
"They do all of downtown, plus the James Street corridor area."
Tom Vair's presentation to City Council is expected to propose further development of the Downtown Ambassador pilot program that has been tested here over the past year with help from Canadian Mental Health Association.
"It seems as though we're all doing individual things, and we're not in tune with it together," said Paul Scornaienchi from Ergo Office Plus.
Directors of the Downtown Association agreed to keep up the KC Security patrols for another month.
"I think we have to continue with the security until we have another avenue to use," Gaccione said.
"It would look bad if we were to drop it, and not have a backup to continue."
"If we don't have anything else other than security, I would recommend we keep the security and maybe this Ambassador program.The association also voted to establish a working group with city police and other city officials, as well as private security, to seek other solutions.