A proposal to have security patrols of public property has been approved by Sooke council.
Council floated the idea several weeks ago when David Babbage, owner of Sooke-based Shadow West Security, approached the district with an offer to patrol parks and residential areas during certain hours of the day and night.
Council concluded residential patrols were not necessary, but entertained the idea of patrols of public property, such as parks and the boardwalk.
“If people become aware that we have security patrolling in our community, even if it’s just our parks and boardwalk, it does start to give a bit of a deterrence to any illicit activity,” said Coun. Kerrie Reay.
On June 27, the district was given four patrol options: two patrols per night, seven nights a week, from 8 to 10 p.m. and in the early morning hours from 2 to 5 a.m., with a cost of $6.25 per patrol.
The other three options included two to four patrols in a marked security vehicle, as well as patrols of residential streets. Depending on the size and type of patrol, this varies between $350 and $3,000 a month.
Chief administrative officer Teresa Sullivan said the recommendation from district staff is that they focus on public properties only, such as parks, the boardwalk, public boat launch, and public buildings, as there is growing concern from mayors and council and CAOs across the region with the disbanding of the tent city in Victoria.
“There’s huge concern that those homeless people start to come out to the West Shore and into Sooke,” Sullivan said.
“We already have some issues with homelessness and drug use in our parks, and we received complaints from citizens regarding human feces and garbage being found (in our parks).”
Sullivan suggested the district try the patrols for a year, ramp it up for the summer, or reduce them once the season is done.
Still, some are reticent to have any patrols at all, as it puts the district at an impasse in deciding which areas of the Sooke community get patrolled.
“How do we pick who we patrol and what we choose to keep safe, and which areas we don’t? It doesn’t fit right,” said Coun. Bev Berger, who opposed the proposal.
“If a crime happens in a un-patrolled area, then do we spread our patrols? This could grow quite far.”
Berger also suggested that should the town need more law enforcement, the district take a look at its five-year financial plan and consider hiring yet another RCMP member.
“We have a contract with the RCMP, we rely on our police to do a good job for us, even if their resources are stretched out, they respond to calls any time of the day or night,” she said.
Sooke RCMP Staff Sgt. Jeff McArthur showed interest in pursuing a security option as well, though he cautioned the RCMP might not take the same attitude due to liability.
“I think it’s a great idea, but I know our organization would have some reservations as to the relationship and would want that relationship to be spelled out,” McArthur said, adding that the best option in the long run is still the addition of more officers.
If accepted, Mayor Maja Tait suggested the contract with Shadow West should be expended from the town’s park budget, and not from reserve funds.
Though no decision has been made on which patrol option the district will choose, Tait and council said it needs further clarity from staff, Shadow West and the RCMP as to what the rules and limitations a contract would entail once patrols start in the coming months.