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Extra Commissionaires deterred crime in high-profile downtown areas, report says

The pilot program intended to place uniformed security personnel in a marked vehicle in visible areas to deter “unsettling incidents” that have occurred in areas such as the library and Crescent Park.
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The enhanced downtown patrol pilot program helped deter six “unsettling incidents” during its four-week trial period, while city staff used the service after hours nearly 30 times for safety reasons.

From Oct. 27 to Nov. 24, 2022, the City of Moose Jaw and Moose Jaw Police Service conducted a pilot program for enhanced patrols in areas of concern. Areas that the two extra commissionaires focused on included Crescent Park, Happy Valley Park, Moose Jaw Cemetery, Elgin Park, Wakamow Valley, Town ‘n’ Country Mall, Kinsmen Sportsplex/skate park, the library and the Events Centre.

The program intended to place uniformed security personnel in a marked vehicle in visible areas to deter “unsettling incidents” that have occurred in those areas, a city council report explained. 

The security personnel worked under police direction and had direct radio communication with police headquarters to report suspicious activities. 

The pilot program also sought data that focused on the number and type of incidents, whether there were reduced calls for service to the police, and whether there was a reduced need for assistance from residents and city employees.

The commissionaires reported six incidents to the MJPS, with four incidents for squatting in businesses and parks, one for a dangerous driving incident, and one for a possible business break-in, the report said. 

Meanwhile, city staff used the service 21 times after hours for escorts to their vehicles. 

“City staff were more at ease knowing there were regular patrols through parks and facilities,” the report said.

The facilities and buildings supervisor also used the service twice for after-hours escorts into city venues because of intrusion alarms. The supervisor would likely have entered these buildings alone if not for the commissionaires.

The city’s current process is if an intrusion alarm goes off, the supervisor logs into the system and determines what’s happening, parks and recreation director Derek Blais told council. If the supervisor can’t identify what’s happening, he visits the site and takes the necessary precautions if alone. 

“But this is something we’re working on, about a working alone policy. We sometimes have operators working alone in areas where we do not have a lot of public activity,” he added.

“I know the Moose Jaw police are (usually) busy, but I really have a problem with an employee going into a facility … by themselves,” said Coun. Doug Blanc. “I have a real concern for their safety in that. That just baffles me a bit.”

The parks and recreation department had no reports of break-ins or vandalism in Crescent Park or other municipal buildings during the pilot project, the report continued. In comparison, there is usually a monthly occurrence of break-ins, with more frequent crimes in the summer.

There were 29 reported uses of the enhanced patrol during the four-week, eight-hour patrol program — 224 hours total patrol hours — or one occurrence or assist per eight-hour shift. 

“Considering that there were no reported incidents of break-ins or vandalism in any city facilities or parks during the pilot program, it seems that the enhanced patrol was a deterrent,” the report said. 

There is no available funding to continue the program now or throughout the summer, so city hall will review that issue with the police service. The cost for the two security personnel was $2,700 per week or $10,800 for the four weeks.

Mayor Clive Tolley had similar concerns as Blanc but appreciated the late-night security escorts being available, especially in the winter. He thought that issue was reason enough to institute the program full-time. 

The mayor then motioned that council should consider a full-time patrol program during December’s 2024 budget talks. 

“… the budget would be about $140,000 a year. So to me, it would be the least expensive way to get more eyes and ears on our parks and buildings,” Tolley added. “And I think it would be money well spent.”

Council then unanimously approved the motion.

The next regular council meeting is Monday, Feb. 13. 

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