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And the beat goes on: Foot patrols bring ‘nostalgic aspect’ back to policing in NOTL

There’s a saying that everything old is new again.

While it’s most commonly used to describe things such as fashion, music and even home decor, policing can now be added to the list.

And officers from the Niagara Regional Police are back on regular foot patrols – walking the beat as it were – in Old Town. It is a practice the police service first brought back in 2022.

“We’re reintroducing the nostalgic aspect of policing,” said Const. Michael Malachowsky, a member of the department’s Community Oriented Response and Engagement (or CORE) unit.

“It’s an old tradition that has been brought back."

Malachowsky and Const. Nicolas Hawrylyshyn are two of five constables and one sergeant assigned to the unit for 2 District, which covers Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Other CORE units patrol St. Catharines (1 District) and Welland (3 District).

“The whole idea of us being out there makes us more available to come up to us casually to speak to us about anything under the sun,” Malachowsky said.

“Whether it be a resident that's on the street who might ask us for or start talking to us about speeding in their particular neighbourhood. Things that they normally wouldn’t maybe call in for now.”

It’s really a way for police to address issues of concern to a community at the grassroots level, he said.

“The idea behind this community unit is we have more time to engage with the community and look after or try to … listen to their complaints or concerns and work with them.”

Hawrylyshyn, meanwhile, said that while on patrol, officers will check in with local businesses as well as chat with residents and visitors to Old Town.

“You’ll go into a shop and say, ‘Hey, I'm Officer Nick with the CORE unit and we’re on a foot patrol in the area. Are there any issues you want to talk about?' "

Officers will spend time with the business owners and learn what concerns they may have, Hawrylyshyn said.

“You're there for about maybe half an hour to an hour and you're learning a bunch of stuff.”

Those kinds of interactions cannot happen from a police cruiser, he said.

Meadow Cho, manager at Balzac’s Coffee Roasters, said the foot patrols are a welcome addition.

“It’s nice to have them around to help us if there is a problem,” she said. “There’s always a bit of excitement when we see them.”

Colleague Joy Naemsch takes comfort in knowing police are nearby.

“There’s times when I am working in the store alone and it makes me feel safe,” she said.

Officers will also work with businesses and residents to find solutions to issues they may be facing, Malachowsky.

For example, a homeowner may have experienced a break-in and when officers visit the scene, notice the front porch of the home has a lot of foliage and the view from the street may be obscured.

Malachowsky said the concept of crime prevention through environmental design – or CPTED for short – may be suggested to help the homeowner come up with a way to avoid further break-ins.

It could mean clearing away some of the plants that may be limiting visibility and, in turn, helping thieves.

“It may seem simple in nature, but the results actually work and there's been a number of initiatives that we've done more so in Niagara Falls that have helped us tremendously in mitigating some of these issues,” Malachowsky said.

Feedback from the community has been positive.

“A lot of people are very pleasant when they want to come speak to us,” Malachowsky said. “It’s just different from the everyday where a lot of the time, people call the police for incidents that are not so nice.”

And tourists, especially during the busy summer season, seem to appreciate their presence as well, Hawrylyshyn said.

“They always want to get a picture with us,” he said.

Richard Hutton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report