Months after it was first announced, the London Police Service (LPS) opened its new Community Foot Patrol office on Wednesday, just hours after a stabbing took place a few steps away.
The new space at 183 Dundas St. looks to provide officers with logistical support, such as the capacity to be used as a command structure for emergences or large-scale events in the core area, while also boosting the visibility of police downtown.
The office is the home base for the LPS’ Community Foot Patrol Unit, which consists of three supervisors and 19 front-line officers who will patrol downtown and Old East Village on foot or bike.
Police have shared few details so far about the stabbing that occurred about four hours before a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the new downtown office.
One man was left with serious, but non-life threatening injuries and police said more information would be provided as it becomes available.
Soon after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Acting Chief Trish McIntyre spoke to reporters and the first question posed to her asked what the new office will do to prevent violent incidents like Wednesday morning’s stabbing from happening again.
“The visibility of our members in and out of this office will no doubt displace crime,” McIntyre said.
“Will it prevent? Not necessarily, but officers patrolling, being present, being visible, will hopefully deter crime from happening in the first place.”
According to McIntyre, the LPS has seen crime go up “exponentially” in London, adding that “we have weapons, violence, violent occurrences in the city of London that we have not seen historically before.”
“What’s our why there? What is causing that? We can say, very clearly, we need to right-size the number of officers that are out on the road doing the work that they do,” McIntyre said.
On Tuesday, city councillors on the strategic priorities and policy committee endorsed a nearly $4-million injection into LPS to help with the hiring of 20 more officers. That funding request is expected to receive final approval during next week’s city council meeting.
The London Police Services Board, the LPS’ civilian oversight group, has approved a three-year-plan to hire a total of 52 new officers. McIntyre says that number is viewed more as a way for police to “catch up.”
“We have to be able to do the basic functions of policing. Our call volume is wild, our response time is crazy high,” McIntyre added.
Even once the hiring money’s in place, McIntyre says recruiting may pose its own challenges as well.
“The workload in London is wildly high … when you ask your members to go call to call to call to call, it’s burnout,” McIntyre said, adding that she also has concerns about keeping new officers that join the force.
“That will be another challenge right on the horizon for us, to not only hire, attract, but retain.”
The Community Foot Patrol Office is one of the latest efforts focused on the state of downtown, the results of which should play out in the coming months or years.
Last week, Londoners learned of a new plan from the Health and Homelessness Summit, a group of more than 200 representatives from dozens of organizations aimed at tackling London’s homelessness issues.
The plan centres around a connected set of integrated hubs that will use an “all doors lead here model,” allowing for flexible referrals, and is expected to receive a nearly $2.9-million commitment from city council next week.