Every day for 23 hours, teams of volunteers are on foot in four-hour shifts, patrolling the streets of Lethbridge as part of a new program, The Watch.
“There’s a lot of awesome stuff going on in downtown Lethbridge and we want the public to feel safe enough to use these,” said Bev Bekker, a volunteer with the program.
The highly-anticipated program officially kicked off May 1, 2019, and within two short weeks, volunteers said they’re already starting to hear positive feedback, from both the public and local business owners.
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“A lot of people come up to us and say thank you for serving us,” said Ashis Khadka, a team lead with the program. “They say what we’re doing is great, and we always get waves every time we’re walking by.”
The Watch runs from 10 a.m to 10 p.m every day, with team leads and volunteers walking the streets between 6th Avenue south and 5th Avenue North. Along the route, watch members check in with local businesses for any problems they may be facing, which so far has been predominantly littering and loitering by their properties, volunteers said.
“I find that the more businesses we talk to, the more problem areas we’re being made aware of,” Bakker said.
“They tell us things like, ‘by our back doors we’re seeing a lot of these problems or we’ve seen a lot of people hanging out here.’ And that’s awesome because we can share that information with the team, and make sure we’re patrolling them in the future.”
Volunteers said they also hope their presence will help alleviate the need for constant law enforcement in the area.
“We don’t want to be seen by the people downtown as the enemy, and I think that makes a big difference for them,” Bekker said.
“You know, if we’re a welcoming face, they’re going to be a lot more willing to listen to us.”
Each week, volunteers offer 105 hours to the program, and members of The Watch are excited to see the public embracing their work.