Sechelt plans to hire private security for a three-month pilot project to patrol the municipality’s downtown and village areas.
On Sept. 6, District of Sechelt Council unanimously approved spending up to $50,000 of its COVID-19 restart funding for the initiative. Coun. Dianne McLauchlan was absent from the meeting and the vote.
“Safety concerns arising from vandalism, discarded drug paraphernalia and garbage as well as unauthorized encampments continue to persist within the Sechelt village despite ongoing efforts from District staff, community members, RCMP and the Sunshine Coast Community Action Team,” said a staff report on the meeting agenda. “While the RCMP have increased foot and bike patrols in the downtown area when possible, the District of Sechelt Public Works staff continue to spend up to 50% of their time cleaning up encampments and surrounding vandalism, and bylaw enforcement officers have seen a major impact on their time and efforts as well.”
The contracted security will work with the Community Safety Select Committee to determine patrol schedules and timing.
Depending on the success of the pilot, future funding for the project could come from a tax increase to the Downtown Business Improvement Area (such a change would require elector approval) or more grants, according to the staff report.
“The goal here is to try it and see how well it works,” Mayor John Henderson said at the meeting.
While this specific recommendation did not come through the community safety committee, according to its chair, Coun. Brenda Rowe, there was discussion about how other organizations are privately contracting security, and that the Sechelt parks department had asked about such a pilot project around the district’s facilities. The prospect of Sechelt partnering with other organizations on security arose at the committee level, but more information is needed, something the pilot can provide. Rowe said partners who have hired private security “have seen some benefit.”
Other councillors voiced general support for the pilot. “I'm glad to see this, this is the eyes and ears and it's going to go from fires to other issues such as vandalism, theft,” said Coun. Darren Inkster.
Coun. Alton Toth said he was supporting the project “because we gotta try something,” but wondered about the efficacy of hiring extra security, who typically cannot restrain people or engage with people committing crimes, versus funding RCMP overtime for more patrols (something that the RCMP has requested, according to the community safety committee minutes).
Rowe responded to Toth that she doesn’t disagree – there are a couple of layers of support required. “If we ask when a lot of stuff is going on, it's between sort of three and seven in the morning,” said Rowe. “This is just another way to have some eyes on the community, which will be helpful to the RCMP.”
Following the project motion's success, Henderson said staff were ready to seek submissions for services and that they "expect to have some responses fairly quickly."