8 uniformed security officers hired to patrol trails, downtown Fredericton
Uniformed private security officers, part of Fredericton's new community safety services unit, are now patrolling trails and downtown areas.
Brad Cameron, the city's assistant director of public safety, organized the pilot project involving security guards employed by GardaWorld.
"They'll engage with the public on the trail system to talk about respectful use of the trails, they'll assist police by reporting crime and report on new tent encampments to police," Cameron told the CBC's Information Morning Fredericton.
One supervisor and eight officers will patrol on foot and on e-bikes.
Two officers will be on duty between 6 a.m. and 1 a.m., seven days a week, and the project will run from April until November.
"We'll leave police to deal with crime and drugs, and these people will be out engaging with the residents right on the street," he said.
They're known as community safety officers and have the authority to enforce bylaws, but Cameron said ticketing should be seen as a last resort.
They will not be armed in any way and are trained in using de-escalation techniques, he said.
Luc Levesque began training as a community safety officer last month, which he said involved "verbal judo" lessons.
"That was probably the most important lesson we got so far, being able to interact with people without things getting volatile because you have to tell people things they don't want to hear," said Levesque.
He said the goal of any interaction is to "end up friends" by the end of it.
Levesque said that training has already been put to good use on a couple of occasions while on the job, including one incident when someone was biking too fast.
"You try to turn it around into a better interaction, and spread some positivity — some etiquette and courtesy — back into this area here," he said. "And I think it will spread without having to enforce."
Community safety officer Seth Hajdu said he hasn't written any tickets in his first few weeks on the job.
He said the goal right now is to issue warnings to prepare Fredericton residents and to make them aware of the officers' presence.
Hadju said the officers will be spending a lot of their time talking to people living in tent encampments about city bylaws and making sure they're following the rules, but they also want to keep track of those in need of food and housing.
"When dealing with the homeless, our main goal is to clean up the streets and not just treat the homeless like crap," said Hadju. "We need to give them respect."
He said the officers will notify those living rough of services that could be of use to them.
"Unfortunately, you see a lot of junk and garbage along the trail system, so these folks will report that to our parks and trees team for timely pickup," said Cameron.
Where it began
Cameron said this project comes as a result of open houses held by the Fredericton Police Force, involving residents and members of the business community.
"We heard loud and clear concerns around graffiti, which seems to be everywhere, theft, vandalism, trail safety and some concerns about those living rough," said Cameron.
He said the project was modelled using the City of Moncton's approach, when it hired community officers to enforce bylaws, including noise, tall grass or unsightly property complaints.
Cameron said the city will monitor the project's success by tracking interactions and tickets, but he expects nearby residents and business community members will let the force know if the project is working.
Last fall, council learned the estimated cost of the pilot project would be $600,000, said Coun. Ruth Breen, vice-chair of the public safety committee.