private Safety Patrol to curb panhandling in downtown Ottawa FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 15 Jun 1998 18:56:17 -0700 (PDT)


http://www.ottawacitizen.com:80/business/980606/1765436.html
=46WD  Ottawa Citizen - Saturday 6 June 1998


     CUSTOMERS COME FIRST

     SAFETY PATROL TARGETS DOWNTOWN 'NUISANCES' TO IMPROVE SHOPPING, TOURISM

     Julia Elliott - The Ottawa Citizen


=46our Centretown business-improvement groups have hired a safety patrol to
clamp down on aggressive panhandling and other street nuisances.

Beginning next week, four men and women employed by Capital Security and
Investigations will roam an area extending from Wellington Street to
Gladstone Avenue and Rochester to Elgin streets.

It's an unprecedented move -- hiring the patrol services of a private firm
-- to help make streets safer and more enticing for shoppers and tourists,
says the executive director of the Bank Street Promenade.

"Let's face it," says Gerry LePage. "It's not realistic to think you can
have a policeman on every corner every hour of every day of every week.
That just simply isn't going to happen."

At the same time, he says, people want to see either more police or more
safety officers. "They want to have a greater sense of security and safety
on the streets. When I'm at functions I hear constantly, 'Oh my God, I was
accosted by this panhandler.' You get inundated with these statements."

Safety officers, who will mainly ride bikes or walk while on the job, are
to report behaviour such as aggressive panhandling, prostitution, vandalism
or drug-related activity to police. On weekday shifts, only one patrol
officer will work. Two officers will share shift duties on weekends.

A spokesman for Ottawa-Carleton police said the force will work with the
safety officers, but has concerns about the precise nature of the duties of
the street patrols.

"We're in a position where we feel they may be contravening the Private
Security and Investigative Act," says Staff Sgt. Gilles Larochelle. "The
act itself says that they can't assume a police-type function in patrolling
the streets like they'll be doing. It's border-line policing. Apparently
the act is quite clear that if you have a security company or
investigators, they have very specific functions, like (they) guard a
building or an area, (they) don't patrol the streets. That's a police
function," Staff Sgt. Larochelle says.

"If (the safety patrollers) continue to be what they say they will be --
eyes and ears of the community -- that's fine. They can call us for any
disturbances or criminal actions, and we'll move in."

Domenic Guidotti of Capital Security and Investigations says his company
has performed a kind of community policing in the past, but this is the
first time it has worked with retail business groups.

He says the Centretown Safety Patrol, who will be on the beat 16 hours
daily, will wear a custom-made uniform consisting of an ivory T-shirt,
dark-blue dress shirt, blue baseball cap and white sneakers. Officers will
carry two-way radios and report to a company dispatch centre, which will
relay alerts to police.

Safety-patrol officers, who have first aid, security and
crisis-intervention training, will focus their attention on Bank, Sparks
and Somerset streets. Business groups on these streets are working together
on the project and sharing the cost.

Ed Mitchell, owner of Somerset House on the corner of Bank and Somerset,
applauds the new patrols.

"I think it's a necessary thing, just to give some added vigilance and
presence on the street," says Mr. Mitchell. "There's no doubt there is an
element of some crime and some lack of safety in the streets. =C9 Among the
population -- a lot of them being downtown residents, a lot of them being
older, a lot of them being female -- there's a real apprehension."

Anyone can be anxious when encountering panhandlers, he said.

"I'm a substantial, relatively athletic individual. But when I walk into a
group of six aggressive transients, I have a problem."

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