In an effort to improve safety in the Uptown District, the City of Port Alberni has purchased a building on Third Avenue for Bylaw services and the Community Policing team.
The building was purchased in alignment with Port Alberni city council’s Corporate Strategic Plan goal of fostering a complete community that is safe, healthy and inclusive. The new Public Safety Building is scheduled to open mid 2021 once renovations are complete.
Funds for the $287,000 building at 3075 Third Ave. came from the city’s Policing Reserve Fund which currently sits at around $2 million, said Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions in a social media post. Policing Reserve funds are built up by refunds from the RCMP budget, typically when staff positions are not able to be filled for periods throughout the year. Minions said the reserve has sat for many years and has only grown.
Minions said the Public Safety Building strategy has been used to make a positive impact in other communities and that council expects it will provide a street level, common location for non-policing agencies to come together in order to jointly address public safety and community challenges.
“[The building] will facilitate foot patrols in the areas by multi-agency teams. It is anticipated that people in need can feel welcome to enter and seek local government support or access to a number of partnering agencies,” Minions said.
The role of the volunteer-based community policing team is to support the RCMP in addressing emerging public safety challenges through programs such as Speed Watch, Crime Watch, Citizens on Patrol, Bike Registration and block watch.
Minions said the new building is expected to have a positive effect on the housing issues facing the community.
“The building is being located in the Uptown District in part to place the city’s Bylaw Services team and Community Policing team into an area where many citizens are experiencing homelessness or are being housed in buildings that are not adequately maintained,” Minions said. “The new Public Safety Building will feature a public-access washroom. This has been a high-priority request for the Uptown District over recent years. This will provide a much needed clean and safe facility for those in the area who are underhoused.”
Both the Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations were informally made aware of the strategic plans for the new Public Safety Building, Minions said.
“The city regularly discusses strategic initiatives, challenges and current events with Hupacasath First Nation and Tseshaht First Nation leaders,” Minions said. “The city has also been working with the Indigenous Safety Team, and hope to integrate that team into the new building.”