Guelph police adding 4 downtown resource officers as part of 6-month pilot project

Guelph police will be stepping up their presence in the downtown core. Matt Carty / Global News

In an effort to increase their visibility in the downtown core, Guelph police will be assigning four patrol officers as full-time downtown resource officers.

Currently, the city only has one downtown resource officer, Const. Mark O’Connell, who was assigned to the position in July.

The four officers will be joining him, beginning on April 1, as part of a six-month pilot project, meaning there will be a dedicated officer in the city’s downtown core 24 hours a day.

The group of five will be led by Sgt. Dustan Howe, who heads up the service’s community mobilization unit. In a previous interview last week, Howe had hinted at this announcement.

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“We hope to do a good job involving the community in the plan, engaging with them and making a real difference,” he said.

The downtown core has been marred with violence since the start of 2020, including two homicides and a 30-person street fight that saw two men suffer stab wounds in January.

But Howe stressed that the plan is not in reaction to those events and has been in the works for a while.

“In my experience, in spite of the events that have taken place recently, it’s still a fun place to go. There’s a lot to do down there, and the city and [police] are taking great strides to make it even better,” he said.

Guelph police said the goal of the initiative is to develop an effect and long-term strategy to “ensure the downtown remains a safe, vibrant and thriving part of our community.”

Chief Gord Cobey has said downtown safety is the issue that crosses his desk the most.

“The initiative that we build, we want it to be as a result of our engagement with our community, listening to our community — we want them to know that they’re being heard and there’s a followup as a result of that,” Cobey said in an interview on March 4.

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“We are going to take very significant steps to demonstrate our commitment to the downtown, to the residents, to the business owners and the visitors so that they feel safe in addition to being safe.”

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