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Continued Public Security Unit funding approved

Grande Prairie city council has approved $710,000 in funding to extend the Public Security Unit pilot project to the end of the year.

The unit, which is made up of eight security officers, supplements the work Enforcement Services and the RCMP do in the city. These security agents work in areas that require enhanced visibility and patrol, to deal with incidents of loitering and trespassing or any other security issue on city property.

Though the funding was approved unanimously, Councillor Dylan Bressey expressed some reservations about whether or not this is a project council will want to have on the books permanently.

“I do think we should have conversations around if 24/7 coverage is needed, especially during the winter months when it is minus 20 degrees out there I don’t think this is nearly as important as in the summer months,” Bressey said. “Also, going forward we have made significant investments in regards to housing investments, and I think as we get people off our streets we are going to see less need for things like this.”

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He argues that in the fall, council and the newly established police commission should discuss whether or not the unit will be needed at the same capacity as it is now. Councillor Wade Pilat echoed Bressey’s thoughts about having a later discussion, emphasizing that while he was supporting the motion to fund the pilot project till the end of the year he could struggle to make the same decision in the fall.

Other councillors who spoke on the topic included Wendy Bosch, Chris Thiessen, and Grant Berg, all sharing their positive thoughts on the unit, with Bosch explaining she has seen the positive impact it has made in the city. Berg emphasized to council that the unit is not just used in the downtown core but is available throughout the city.

“It was a Saturday afternoon and I was a witness to a trespass and some theft. A call was made and the security unit responded within minutes, handled the situation, and dealt with it, freeing up our police force for more serious matters,” Berg said. “It was quick, it was responsive, and it was the level of policing that was required for the situation.”

Berg adds looking at overnight policing, especially over the summer, he believes the unit’s patrols in the late hours are enough of a deterrent that the city will see a decline in incidents.

Since the pilot started, the PSU has conducted 2,029 proactive patrols and responded to 2,611 incidents including assault, theft, trespassing, and overdoses. From those incidents RCMP made 96 arrests, Peace Officers were called to assist 83 times, and EMS was called 12 times.

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