July 20, 2018 3:07 pm
Updated: July 20, 2018 3:11 pm

Private security could be coming to downtown Oshawa

The executive director of the Downtown Oshawa BIA is looking for feedback by July 25 regarding his private-security idea.

Michael Davidson/Global News

The group representing downtown Oshawa business owners may hire a private security firm to address the challenges they face, including those involving “vagrants.”

Garth Johns, the executive director of the Downtown Oshawa BIA, says he sent out an email a few weeks ago to the organization’s members, saying he has been in talks with a private firm. He’s now looking for feedback about this idea by July 25.

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He says most of the time, the downtown area is “quiet,” but once in a while, “Some poor — and I mean this — homeless person …[is] sleeping on the porch of a business owner down here,” he cites as an example of a challenge business owners face. “We get complaints about the odd, occasional drug deal going down. Most of this, I’m going to say, happens between … midnight and six in the morning.”

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Johns says 75 per cent of the group’s members backed the idea, but it has proven controversial — many residents condemned the private option in a Facebook post. Christeen Thornton, who runs DIRE, an anti-poverty research and advocacy group, said, “This is a terrible idea. … This will only further the stigma and deepen the divide in our city.”

Another Facebook user wrote, “With the police station being right downtown, and with them already supplying foot patrol to the area, how is this an effective use of the money?”

If the board approves of the private-security idea, Johns says, the BIA would foot the bill to employ the personnel. “My responsibility is to the property owners and business owners downtown,” he said.

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He says there is an upcoming meeting with Durham police to discuss the idea, and a spokesperson with the police, Dave Selby, says the BIA has already approached them about adding security.

“We’re not against that,” Selby said. “Though, we want to make sure that they go in with their eyes open in terms of what security can and can’t do.”

Selby says many officers are concentrating in Oshawa and there is a full-time police person who patrols specifically in downtown Oshawa.

For now, Johns says, the idea is in the preliminary stages and more research needs to be done. “I may check with other BIAs around the province [and] say, ‘Who’s tried something that’s worked?'”

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