Extra police presence in downtown Sudbury is only for the short-term, chief says
Combination of opioid crisis and pandemic has created a volatile situation, says chief
Greater Sudbury's police chief says officers from other parts of the city will be called to reinforce the police presence downtown after a marked increase in violence and deaths in the city's core.
Chief Paul Pedersen said he can't predict how long the extra officers will be in place and said that will depend on a two factors.
"Number one [would be] indicators of success downtown," he said. "Is what we're doing, collectively, working? The second would be the areas where we've moved [officers], what backlog is it creating in those areas, and how long can we move them from that area without seeing some deterioration in levels of service?"
Pedersen said the police service already has two officers dedicated to downtown and the extra help is much needed. He says between the opioid crisis and the pandemic, officers are seeing more vulnerable and marginalized people than ever before.
"What I'm seeing clearly is many of our vulnerable, marginalized people are becoming more vulnerable and more marginalized and many people are dealing with trauma, intergenerational trauma, [and] food insecurities."
Pederson said the number of discarded needles downtown is a sign that people have poor coping mechanisms and are using "really dangerous drugs"
"We see evidence of that in social disorder," and lower-level property crimes being committed "to get some cash — money to supply a need," he said.
The chief took part in an emergency meeting called by the mayor earlier this week. Several community leaders took part to discuss short-, medium- and long-term solutions.
"It's not sustainable in the long term, but certainly something we expect to do in the short term, and that's dedicate more foot patrol, more presence, not only during the daytime and the evening hours, but throughout the night. And that includes all areas of our organization, including our drug enforcement unit will be, and continue to be, downtown covertly," said Pedersen.
Pedersen says officers will be honing in on the issues that that have come forward as concerns from the community.
"The long term [issues] are challenging. I don't mean to to sound dismissive, but there isn't a clear solution to the global opioid crisis."
Pedersen says many of the people who are suffering right now struggle with a lack of belonging, racism, discrimination, and adequate housing.
"We know that all of those things come together to see people on our streets and see people in our parks," he said.
"And we really believe the enforcement is best served on those who are trafficking and distributing those poisonous drugs to people that are losing their lives on our streets."