For months now there’s been a general discussion about the safety of people downtown, and it’s a discussion that got real earlier this year with two separate homicides happening within a block of each other in the span of a month. Sensing a need for a greater police presence in the core, the Guelph Police Service will be unveiling a six-month pilot project to have four additional full-time uniformed officers on the streets.
According to the media release from Guelph Police, the new four-person unit will begin patrolling the streets downtown on April 1, and join the current Downtown Resource Officer, Constable Mark O’Connell. The project is meant to increase the visibility of police downtown, and is part of the Police Service’s strategic plan to “develop an effective and long term strategy to ensure our downtown remains a safe, vibrant and thriving part of our community.”
“In my daily conversations with residents and businesses across our city, and especially in our downtown core, the issue of community safety is consistently top of mind,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie in a statement released to the media. “I am thankful to Council for joining me in approving the 2020 budget, which allocated significant resources to Guelph Police Services, including the funds to hire more than 30 new staff, many of them visible front line officers.”
Guthrie added that enforcement alone will not improve safety downtown, and last month at his State of the City address, the mayor announced his intention to reconvene his Task Force on Homelessness and Community Safety to look at further solutions. The Downtown Guelph Business Association has also been looking at safety in the core, or at least the public’s perception of safety, in an online survey.
This new announcement from Guelph Police follows the death of security guard Mario Ruffolo at Guelph Central Station in January, and death of 27-year-old Guelph resident Nick Tanti in front of Tony’s Billiards in February.
“As civil servants, both Chief Cobey and I feel a responsibility to be accountable to Guelph’s taxpayers, and that responsibility is a critical component of today’s announcement,” Guthrie added. “I am thankful that Chief Cobey is initiating this six-month pilot to gather data and feedback so that a thorough review can be done to evaluate whether the current compliment of officers is sufficient, or if adjustments will be needed going forward.”
The Guelph Police will be holding a technical briefing on Thursday afternoon to answer media questions about the new program.