Night security guards an 'extra hand' for police, says Wyandotte Town Centre BIA

The Wyandotte Town Centre BIA has started a $6,000 pilot project to hire private night security guards for three months in response to a series of break-ins and incidents of vandalism targeting local businesses.

"If there are any major incidents, they will call police," the chair of the BIA said.

man standing in parking lot of restaurant
Larry Horwitz is the chair of the Wyandotte Town Centre BIA. He held a press conference on Thursday at the Al Sabeel Lebanese Cuisine restaurant to share more details about the private security pilot project. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

The Wyandotte Town Centre BIA has started a $6,000 pilot project to hire private night security guards for three months.

The move was made to prevent break-ins and incidents of vandalism targeting local businesses, and the chair of the Wyandotte Town Centre BIA, Larry Horwitz, says that the program is helping already.

"In the last case, in the last few days someone tried to break into a business by smashing the door in. Police were called and the action was stopped," he said. "We believe that in a number of cases, we have secured the area and windows haven't been broken because of it and many people have not suffered loss of their supplies, or broken doors or things along those lines."

He said the program, which has been ongoing for a month now, will likely be expanded once the pilot project ends next month.

"They'll just be keeping an eye on things. If there are any major incidents, they will call police," he said. "It's an extra set of eyes."

The Wyandotte Town Centre BIA runs along Wyandotte Street East from Gladstone Avenue, ending just before McDougall Avenue, but business owners in the downtown area have spoken out about recent incidents as well.

La Vern's Market on University Avenue experienced a series of break-ins from a thief dubbed "the butter tart bandit." Other businesses in the area, like Lefty's on the O, Phog Lounge and Tunnel Discount Convenience, have also recently dealt with various incidents of vandalism.

Most of the area currently being patrolled by private security is in Ward 4 — but a small section is in the downtown Ward 3, which is represented by councillor Renaldo Agostino.

Agostino said a lot of businesses in the area already have overnight security and teaming up with the local BIA will only help them more.

"I'm sure they're going to share the costs. I'm sure it's going to be additional eyes on the street and more help. That's what I think is a good idea."

He said the new security measures will go through a natural trial and error process to find out what works best for the community.

"This is not a new, revolutionary thing. It happens everywhere. The mall has private security walk around all the day. We have police forces that walk around," he said. "The more hands on deck, the greater success we are going to see."

CBC News has reached out to the Ward 4 councillor, Mark McKenzie, for comment but has not yet heard back.

Concern for those experiencing homelessness, mental health issues

Street Help Windsor, which supports people experiencing homelessness, is located in the area where the overnight patrols are happening.

Christine Wilson-Furlonger, the centre's administrator, said there needs to be more clarity on the type of security services that will be provided to businesses in the area.

"If we need more police officers, then I think our city of Windsor should hire more police officers," she said.

Christine Wilson-Furlonger is an administrator at Street Help Windsor, a homeless centre located on Wyandotte Street East. (Jason Viau/CBC)

She said she worries that those experiencing homelessness will be unfairly targeted.

"What about our mental health component here? Are the guards going to be highly trained to be able to recognize a mental health issue and get the proper authorities in to help the person?"

Horwitz said businesses not need to worry about a duplication of services.

"I think the police could use that extra hand," he said. "If they [hired security] are worried at all about an issue, they call the police."

He said the private security guards have developed "a great relationship" with local police so far.

CBC News has reached out to the Windsor Police Service for comment.

Need for security based on 'perception': Ford City BIA

Meanwhile, the chair of the Ford City BIA said there is currently no need to implement overnight security in the area.

"We don't have those problems. We never have," Shane Potvin said. "I've been around for almost five years now and it's never been a concern. Our neighbourhood has been pretty safe. We've never really had any major issues so for us, it's really not even on the table."

man with green coat stands in front of a street mural of a yellow ford car
Shane Potvin is the chair of the Ford City BIA. He said there is currently no need to implement overnight security in the area. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

He said perception will play a big factor into whether security is implemented in the future.

"Maybe it isn't as bad as it seems, but I think you have to follow whatever the perception is going to be," he said. "Ford city had this old stigma that it was a pretty bad neighbourhood — and it was a bad neighbourhood for a long time. But that was 25 years ago."

Potvin said the Ford City area enjoys more of a small town feel these days.

"So that helps because if something does happen, someone will know who it was, which essentially deters it from even happening to begin with," he said. "But if we had the problem, then sure, we'd install something like that."


Aastha Shetty

CBC journalist

Aastha Shetty can be reached via email or by tweeting her at @aastha_shetty

With files from TJ Dhir