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Downtown Discovery Team lends helping hand to Regional Police

Last Updated Dec 6, 2017 at 9:26 pm EDT

(Downtown Kitchener BIA)

Regional Police are getting a bit of a break when it comes to responding to ‘nuisance’ calls in Kitchener, as a new outreach team is helping officers handle complaints in the downtown core.

The Downtown Discovery Team has been out patrolling the streets in DTK every weekday for the past few months.

Chief Bryan Larkin says the initiative is really a partnership between downtown businesses and Regional Police.

“We’ve had a long time relationship with the BIA, The Working Centre, and House of Friendship. When we started looking at the demand on our service in downtown Kitchener, much of the work that we do there isn’t crime related — only about 25 per cent is.”

The program receives its’ funding from the Downtown Kitchener BIA, and all of the Outreach Workers are hired by The Working Centre.

Larkin says the Team’s impact has been significant — as at times, police officers simply aren’t the best ones to deal with some of the complex issues that take place in the downtown core.

“When this was proposed by the BIA, and supported by the business owners, it made total sense to give it an opportunity. When you look at the data, our call demand is reducing, so it allows us to be more proactive and do other things in the downtown core. More importantly, the citizen or client winds up getting better service — as they get navigated to Public Health or somewhere more suited to their needs.”

Larkin calls it a win-win situation for everybody.

“I applaud the program, and I think it’s something that has merit to be replicated in other parts of the Region.”

Larkin says the program specifically benefits many at-risk citizens that frequent downtown, including those suffering from mental health issues, addiction, and homelessness.

“Many of our clients or business owners are familiar with these people, so they’ll be able to recognize if maybe the person is just having a bad day.”

Larkin says in these instances, the traditional lens of police enforcement is not the solution, and that’s where the Outreach Workers come in.

“So as an example — elements of homelessness do impact our downtown core, so if we have a citizen that is maybe taking shelter in an ATM receptacle, and the bank manager recognizes them and phones the Outreach Worker — they’ll be able to get the person and point them in the right direction.”

Throughout the warmer months, calls for police service continuously increase when it comes to nuisance-type incidents in the downtown core — but Larkin says calls actually decreased in May and June of this year.

During the first two weeks of April, there were 81 ‘unwanted person’ calls in the downtown core. Once the Discovery Team was put into action though, the number of calls in the last two weeks of June was reduced to just 37.