B.C. Protection Services owner Jason Graf (left) stands with protection officer Zach Wells on Friday, Aug. 18, at the tennis courts in Memorial Park. (X. Y. Zeng photo)

Organizer reviews community safety officer role after trial ends

The next step involves finding funding

The two-week community safety officer trial has come to an end and British Columbia Protection Services (BCPS) owner Jason Graff said he has received positive feedback from the community.

The next steps for the program involves finding a way to fund the program. Graff said he could pursue funding from the District of Hope, grants from the provincial government and private funding such as individual businesses.

Graff said to fund the same level of service, it would cost $4,180, plus GST, for five-days-a-week, eight-hour-per-day service. That works out to a cost of $52,668 per year. Graff also said the company could also take on bylaw enforcement work, whose cost will have to be determined with the municipality.

“That’s something that the District may be interested in down the road, especially considering that we don’t have any bylaw services on the weekend or animal control,” said Graff.

A report published by BCPS showed that they spent 36 per cent of their time doing community ambassador work; 26 per cent handling incidents categorized as “criminal”; 24 per cent handling community safety cases; and 10 per cent working in outreach cases. The remaining four per cent were classified as “others.”

Community ambassador work involved answering visitors’ questions about the community such as where to eat, have coffee or about Rambo.

“On a couple of occasions, we actually had visitors from the U.K. and a couple of other countries who came up and started conversation with us and was instantly able to identify what role we’re playing in our community,” said Graff. “Because in their countries, they have very similar programs.”

Graff said the category “criminal” involves anything a security guard would deal with such as aggressive panhandling, theft, mischief, trespassing and drinking in public. Community safety cases involves the safety of the community such as assisting other agencies, responding to business’s complaints and lost and found items.

Hope Optical owner Cindy Koszegi said she has noticed a decrease in incidents near her store after the two-week trial. Before the trial, she said she had people openly doing drugs and panhandling aggressively nearby.

“It was a resounding success,” said Koszegi. “The behaviour of the street-entrenched individuals significantly changed knowing the presence of the community safety patrol — they were under their watchful eye.”

Asked if she were willing to pay the costs if Graff fails to find any outside funding, Koszegi said she will work with downtown merchants to make this possible.

Koszegi first proposed hosting a two-week trial to the District of Hope in the summer and explained that after receiving an unfavourable response, she spoke with Graff to do a two-week trial. Graff provided the service for free over the two weeks.

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