Blackbird Security Inc. has been chosen to provide safety ambassadors to help patrol the Trans-Canada Highway corridor between Beverly Street and Boys Road.
Duncan city council decided to recommend signing a one-year contract with the Vancouver-based security company at its meeting on Aug. 19 as part of the Valley’s new Safer Community Plan to address crime and public disorder in that section of the TCH.
As well, North Cowichan’s council is recommending the approval a two-year lease on 490 Trans Canada Highway, the north half of the old Duncan Music Store, that will serve as a new Corridor Safety Office.
Both councils have to approve the lease and the contract with Blackbird Security.
The initiatives are the first stages of the Safer Community Plan initiative that was endorsed by both Duncan and North Cowichan last month, which called for establishing a corridor safety office and coordinating municipal bylaw enforcement and RCMP resources in that area.
Staff from North Cowichan have taken the lead on identifying potential properties for the community safety office and on lease negotiations, while staff from Duncan were given the responsibility for the safety ambassadors.
A staff report written by Rob Conway, North Cowichan’s director of planning, that was presented earlier this year, said a study by Community Futures Cowichan on the issue determined that the primary concerns for business owners in the corridor area are social issues, safety and security.
Conway said the study cited a current level of “public disorder” as a shared concern among business owners, and identified a high level of frustration regarding the lack of assistance and response businesses receive from law enforcement authorities, government agencies and local government.
At the time, the local governments each committed $10,000 to develop the plan and to get the initiative started.
The plan was developed in consultation with local business owners, Cowichan Tribes, the Cowichan Valley School District, health and social service providers, RCMP and many others.
Blackbird was chosen out of four proposals by security companies to provide daytime safety ambassadors for the contract.
The safety ambassadors are intended to become the “eyes” on the street that will enable RCMP and bylaw staff to respond to concerns based on immediate information when incidents are occurring.
They can also provide focused patrols in problematic areas.
A Duncan staff report said Blackbird was selected due to the company’s understanding of the unique nature of the task, and the fact its employees have the required skill sets for the work required.
The city will have final approval on all employees assigned to the contract.
The contract is only for one year in order to ensure that the city can review the effectiveness of the contractor’s ability to maintain the same or suitable staff.
The contract is worth up to $74,000 and the cost will be split equally between Duncan and North Cowichan.
The safer community office will cost $37,000 per year to lease, and renovations to the 1,700 square-foot space are estimated at $30,000, with all costs again equally split between the two local governments.
Plans also call for increasing the number municipal foot and bike patrols in the highway corridor.
North Cowichan’s bylaw department has acquired bicycles, uniforms and personal protective equipment, and the department has scheduling bicycle training, naloxone administration training, and de-escalation training as part of the initiative.
If both councils approve the lease for the community safety office and the ambassadors, staff will get started immediately on the implementation plan.