Pubdate: Fri, 29 Sep 2006
Source: Niagara This Week (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 Metroland Printing, Publishing and Distributing
Author: Amanda Street


Thorold -- Downtown Is Being Watched.

A program launched earlier this year by the city's Business 
Improvement Area is in full swing.

Downtown Watch acts similar to the popular Neighbourhood Watch 
program, urging downtown businesses and landowners to call the police 
if they see suspicious behaviour taking place.

The BIA launched the program following a survey of downtown 
merchants, landowners and workers. Forty surveys were distributed, 
and 21 were returned -- 16 from businesses, three from residents and 
two from workers.

 From the survey the BIA found 81 per cent felt safer in the downtown 
core during daylight hours. Major issues identified include drug 
offences, graffiti and loitering.

Minor issues identified were alcohol offences, skateboarders, traffic 
infractions and youth problems.

Another issue identified was the police presence in the city. The 
city spans about 83 square kilometres, which is a large area, said 
Bob Sagness, chair of the Community Policing Committee.

There are at least two police cruisers patrolling the area at all 
times, Sagness said.

"Thorold is a large area to cover, and it's hard to cover with two cars.

"This program is an excellent way to encourage people to call the 
police. Any extra help the cops can get is greatly appreciated."

Sagness works closely with the Niagara Regional Police, discussing 
areas of improvement in the city. He said the police are often in 
unmarked vehicles. Although residents may not know the police are 
there, they are, he said.

Sagness said a major issue on Front Street is drug dealing which he 
has discussed with NRP in great detail.

"It has become more of a problem than it has in the past," Sagness 
said. "The drug dealing is being watched closely."

All in all, Sagness said he feels safe in the city's core at night, 
as does BIA coordinator Becky Day.

"Downtown is safe but there is room for improvement," Day said.

In a letter sent to the City of Thorold in May, the BIA outlined the 
biggest challenges in terms of policing is a lack of police 
visibility, a need for more police patrol on foot and bike and a need 
for the police and businesses to become familiar with each other.

When asked if there was enough police presence downtown only 10 per 
cent answered yes.

Day said the BIA is hoping all the downtown merchants will hop on 
board the watch program.

The program was announced at the beginning of the summer but its 
official launch was Sept. 19.

Although the Niagara Regional Police are not directly involved with 
the program, they support any program which allows them to do their 
jobs to the best capacity, said Const. James Taylor.

"The message is clear. If you see a crime report it to the police," 
Taylor said. "Any information the downtown business owners may 
provide will greatly assist our officer.

"The police cannot be everywhere at one time."

He said as a result of a meeting in May the NRP has focused on 
targeting concerns brought up by the BIA such as drug and alcohol 
abuse on Front Street.

Taylor wants to make it clear to business owners to not become 
involved in any crime they witness, calling the police is the answer.
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