Westward Independent

Joint venture between Duncan and North Cowichan – Safer Community Plan details

by Westward Independent
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The Cowichan Valley has made headlines this month, the community’s outcry for safety and stability has led to a series of public protests, underlining a deep-seated concern for the future. Amid the clamour for change, the common refrain is a desire to reclaim the sense of security that once defined this region. Despite perceptions that local officials are standing by idly, there is a bevy of activities and strategic efforts underway aimed at addressing these concerns.

Central to these efforts is the Safer Community Plan (SCP), a blueprint for enhancing public safety and community well-being. This initiative, a collaborative venture between Duncan, North Cowichan, and the RCMP, focuses on proactive measures to curb crime and disorder. Through enhanced patrols, community engagement, and inter-agency cooperation, the SCP embodies a comprehensive approach to restoring peace and order.

Yet, the challenge remains not only in implementing these measures but in ensuring their effectiveness and visibility are acknowledged by the community. Bridging this gap between action and perception is pivotal, demanding an open, ongoing dialogue to highlight the tangible impacts of these initiatives.

As we delve deeper into the specifics of the SCP and other measures, it’s crucial to recognize the efforts being made to navigate Cowichan Valley through these trying times. The journey ahead is one of collaboration, communication, and concerted action, inviting every stakeholder to partake in the mission to secure and uplift our beloved community. The following sections will outline the concrete steps being taken under the SCP, underscoring the commitment to a safer, more vibrant Cowichan Valley.

RCMP Bike police patrol Lewis St - Feb 22, 2024 (WWIND photo)

North Cowichan and the City of Duncan came together on January 23, 2024 as part of a joint venture to address topics such as homelessness, crime, safety, and the Safer Community Plan (SCP). The SCP aims to enhance public safety in Duncan and North Cowichan through collaborative efforts. Below are key takeaways outlining upcoming changes and initiatives planned by the city of Duncan and North Cowichan:

  1. Phase One – Implementation (August to December 2019)

    • Established the Corridor Safety Office (CSO) for centralized operations, shared costs between Duncan and North Cowichan.
    • Contracted Blackbird Security for enhanced daytime patrols; expanded areas include the Overdose Prevention Site on Ypres Street, with extended hours into the evening.
    • Formed the Safer Working Group (SWG) to foster collaboration among Duncan, North Cowichan, Cowichan Tribes, and RCMP, focusing on crime reduction, public disorder, and enhancing public safety.
    • Distributed a “Who to Call” brochure to clarify contact points for various concerns, reducing confusion and call volume to the RCMP.
  2. Security and Patrol Enhancements

    • Staff received training in mental health, conflict de-escalation, and trauma-informed approaches.
    • Added dedicated staffing for patrols, exceeding initial recommendations for enhancing safety.
    • Introduced bike patrols for increased visibility and efficiency.
  3. Phase Two – Refining and Reporting (January 2020 – Onward)

    • Coordinated short-term late-night and early morning patrols to address specific community needs.
    • Updated the “Who to Call” brochure with current contact information for Community Policing.
    • Contracted Footprints Security following the conclusion of Blackbird Security’s contract, demonstrating continuity in security efforts.
    • Enhanced garbage and sharps collection programs, including a 50/50 funding arrangement between Duncan and North Cowichan for the Mobile Peer Clean-up Crew program.
  4. Community Engagement and Safety Initiatives

    • Continued regular participation in Community Action Team meetings, enhancing community safety coordination.
    • Implemented Consent to Enter Agreements with property owners, allowing RCMP to enforce against trespassers more effectively.
  5. Adjustments to the Safer Community Plan

    • Shifted from joint Duncan and North Cowichan bike patrols to focus on individual jurisdictions.
    • Closed the Corridor Safety Office due to underutilization and COVID-19 impacts, reallocating resources to other initiatives like Enhanced Sharps Collection.
  6. Staff Achievements and Next Steps

    • Staff demonstrated dedication to the SCP through various initiatives such as setting up Security Ambassadors, coordinating patrols, and engaging with the community.
    • Acknowledged the challenges related to toxic drug and housing affordability crises, emphasizing the need for continued collaboration among stakeholders.
  7. Survey and Feedback Mechanism

    • Conducted surveys among residents, employees, and business owners to gather feedback on the SCP’s impact, indicating a general improvement in the perception of safety.
  8. Financial and Strategic Implications

    • Highlighted the significant financial and strategic commitment to the SCP, addressing a strategic priority of enhancing community connections and ensuring a safe, healthy community.
  9. Alternate Options for Consideration

    • Suggested referring the SCP update to a Committee of the Whole meeting for further discussion.
  10. Community and Business Impact

    • Emphasized the growing public expectations for safety, with a focus on a visible security presence in the Highway Corridor to support community goals.
  11. Effectiveness of Safety Ambassadors and Patrols

    • Detailed the role of Safety Ambassadors and patrols in enhancing the perception of safety within the community, including early morning patrols and the importance of a visible security presence.
  12. Challenges and Community-wide Efforts

    • Discussed challenges such as needles in the Cowichan River and the importance of community-wide recognition and efforts to address public disorder and safety concerns.

Download the full agenda PDF here

School bus drives by homeless camps - Feb 22, 2024 (WWIND photo)

The burgeoning issues within the Cowichan Valley, from public safety concerns to the complexities of managing homelessness and drug use, are reflective of broader systemic challenges. The introduction of policies such as safe supply and decriminalization, alongside persistent poverty, are not merely local phenomena but are significantly influenced by top-down directives from provincial and federal levels. These measures, while conceived with the intention of addressing public health crises, have inadvertently funneled the burden onto local communities, exacerbating existing tensions and creating new challenges for municipal governance and law enforcement.

Local RCMP and officials find themselves navigating a precarious landscape, where the scope for action is often circumscribed by broader legislative and policy frameworks set by the NDP government provincially and the federal Liberals. This situation places them in a difficult position, effectively handcuffed by the limits of their authority and the resources at their disposal. While the community’s call for action is both heard and understood, the reality is that local entities are operating within a constrained environment, making the quest for solutions a complex endeavor. Acknowledging the efforts of these local bodies is crucial, as they strive to implement meaningful changes within the tightrope of provincial overreach and federal guidelines. The pressure on them to act is recognized, yet it’s also understood that their capacity to deliver sweeping changes is hampered by the broader political and policy landscape in which they operate.

Homeless dispersed from storefronts - Feb 22, 2024 (WWIND photo)

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