City of Nanaimo considering expansion of downtown safety measures


The City of Nanaimo is considering spending more to improve safety in its downtown.

An independent report has been released to council with a number of recommendations, but before making any decisions, Nanaimo council wants to know exactly how much.

Community safety officers, along with police and city workers, are dismantling an encampment on the edge of the Millstone River.

It’s one of the many tasks they fulfill around the city’s downtown.

“We’re extremely busy every day. Officers are working from seven in the morning till currently 11 at night, seven days a week,” said Barry Hornby, the senior community safety officer with the City of Nanaimo.

They respond to an average of 1,000 service calls each month, including overdoses, encampments and welfare checks.

A recent independent report found the clean-up efforts are working. Deloitte said the community safety officer and clean team have made a “notable impact on the perception of safety and cleanliness of downtown areas.”

Now, there is a call to expand the programs. The report recommends hiring eight to 18 new community safety officers from the current 12, which could lead to around-the-clock coverage and expansion throughout Nanaimo.

“Council has asked for a further report that will confirm the actual cost, and we’ll look at various scenarios, and we’ll see what comes of it. At this point no deicisons have been made,” said Leonard Krog, Nanaimo’s mayor.

Krog says it’s watching Victoria’s effort to bill the province.

“I compliment Mayor Alto and her council for pursuing it, and I think it’s something I say with a bit of tongue-in-cheek that Nanaimo could certainly consider because there’s no question cities in and of themselves, municipal governments, didn’t create the street disorder we’re suffering,” he said.

The head of the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association says he, too, would like to see the downtown safety programs expanded.

“There’s definitely the opportunity to add more officers to help them out to give them support but I do also think we need to have more supports just generally in the community,” said Fred Jeffery, the association’s president.

Jeffery says proper supports include overnight shelters and, ideally, long-term housing.

Housing is exactly what camper Allan Dykes said he’s desperate for.

“For five years, I’ve been having crap stolen from me,” said Dykes, who formerly lived in Victoria. “I would like to be able to have a home.”

The safety officers say they have no choice but to keep cleaning up the camps, or they just continue to grow. They’re now hoping some extra help will come soon.

Earlier this year, the Nanaimo Area Public Safety Association said safety was not improving in downtown Nanaimo.

Kendall Hanson

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