The city has all the resources it needs to curb “nuisance” behaviour in the Gore area of downtown, says the chair of Hamilton’s police board. It’s just a matter of telling officers to patrol there.
Hamilton’s downtown is patrolled by the ACTION team, and its officers focus on problem areas, said Coun. Lloyd Ferguson. So the city shouldn’t need to hire an extra police officer or bylaw enforcement officer to patrol the area of King and Hughson.
The task force for cleanliness and security in the downtown core is looking into a three-year pilot program similar to the city of Barrie’s, where dedicated bylaw and police officers patrol areas of the downtown. City staff will present options to the task force on July 14.
Ferguson urged the task force to present to the police services board to see if existing officers can focus on the area.
“That’s the whole purpose of the ACTION team,” he said. “They move to hot spots. If one spot is popping up as being particularly problematic, they should go down and address that.”
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Violent crime, robbery, car thefts and other crimes have dropped downtown since Hamilton Police Service established the ACTION team in 2010. It also conducted 3,684 “street checks” in 2013.
In addition to the ACTION team, Hamilton police have an officer assigned to that area through the Social Navigator program, which directs people with mental health and addiction issues to the relevant resources, said Const. Debbie McGreal, police spokesperson.
"We need to gather more information as to what other services Barrie police services are doing to determine whether their model is applicable to our situation," she said.
This spring, Irene Hubar, property manager of The Right House, presented to council about the amount of loitering, spitting and drug dealing happening around her building. Kathy Drewitt, executive director of the Downtown BIA, said it’s a common complaint among downtown business owners.
But Ferguson worries about the expense of going beyond what the ACTION team is doing.
“Where does it start and stop?” he said of dedicating officers to certain areas.
Coun. Jason Farr of Ward 2 told the general issues committee on Monday that the task force is looking for a little bit more.
“They can’t always be there,” he said of the ACTION team, “and always being there is what we’re looking for.”
Poverty activists worry that stepping up enforcement is targeting low-income residents, who use the area as a place to be social.
“Sure, there’s some incidents and that’s unfortunate,” said Tom Cooper, director of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction. “But on balance, I think most of the people who are downtown are there because they want to participate in community life.”
The task force meets at 10 a.m. in the city hall council chambers.