Sudbury police chief says service will focus more resources downtown
October 22, 2020 By Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star
A downtown strategy is ‘top of mind’ for everyone right now considering current events, said Sudbury’s police chief on Wednesday.
Paul Pederson addressed the “current state of angst” felt by the Sudbury community on the heels of two high profile incidents that occurred downtown this past week.
A 32-year-old man is facing second-degree murder charges in connection to a fatal stabbing that occurred on Elm Street on Oct. 14.
Another stabbing occurred near the city’s transit terminal just days later on Oct. 18, resulting in the hospitalization of one man and the arrest of a 38-year-old man who was charged with attempted murder.
“Given the current fear of crime and the property crime that’s gone up recently, we have dedicated resources to focus exclusively downtown,” Pederson told a police board meeting on Oct. 21.
“Those resources have come from other areas of our organization. Moving people from one area into another area for what we’re calling an `action team.’
“It’s not sustainable in the long run, but certainly something we expect to do in the short term, and that’s dedicate more foot patrol, more presence, not only in the daytime and evening hours, but throughout the night, and that includes all areas of our organization, including our Drug Enforcement Unit, that will continue to be downtown covertly.”
Pederson was one of the community leaders who joined Mayor Brian Bigger at a Tuesday meeting to determine the next steps to address the issues the city is seeing downtown.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, City of Greater Sudbury CAO Ed Archer, the downtown BIA, and representatives from the Canadian Mental Health Association were also present at the meeting.
The police service’s action team was one of the things discussed by community leaders. Pederson said that he is encouraged to see leadership at the senior level pulling together stakeholders to determine both short- and long-term solutions.
“We know what needs to be done in the short term with respect to some crime prevention techniques like lighting and locking doors, and things like garbage cleanup, and needle pickup. We must also consider long-term solutions. At the end of the day, how do we help vulnerable people?” he said.
“You know the most recent high-profile incidents are violence involving vulnerable people, and ultimately, our goal is to help them.”
Although violent crime in Sudbury has decreased by 37 per cent compared to 2019, according to Pederson, the perception of crime seems to have increased.
This could be because some of the issues that existed pre-COVID have become more visible due to the pandemic.
“We didn’t have Ribfest, or festivals, or concerts. The Sudbury Theatre Centre isn’t open. Restaurants are restricted to limits. So, right now, we are seeing evidence of vulnerable people in every corner of downtown. In fact, we see it across Greater Sudbury,” he said.
Vulnerable individuals have also experienced greater displacement due to COVID-19, and they are also more susceptible to some of the negative social and financial impacts of the pandemic.
“Because of COVID, some of the places where people experiencing housing or food insecurity used to go have had to close because they cannot guarantee social distancing and the don’t want to put anyone in a place of increased health risk. Vulnerable people are not able to visit these places during the day. We’re just seeing more of what was already there,” said Pederson.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is also hitting vulnerable people harder than it’s hitting others. It’s sort of a constellation and overlap of a few things happening — a global opioid crisis happening at the same time as a global pandemic crisis, and both of those things are evidenced in downtown Sudbury, that’s for sure.”
This sentiment was echoed by Lisa Long, the executive director of the Samartian Centre located downtown at 344 Elgin St.
“Everything is closed. Where do they go? They go outside. The problem existed pre-COVID, but it’s just become more visible. Anyone who is coming downtown knows that things like homelessness and poverty were always big issues, but we’re seeing it more,” she said.
She also said that short-term solutions will not do anything to help vulnerable people in the long run.
“You can try to clean up all you want, but society needs to get to the root of this problem. Cleaning up is not going to make a drug crisis go away. Cleaning up is not going to make homelessness go away. It might move it somewhere else for a little bit, but cleaning up does not make something go away.”
Pederson emphasized the discussion into these issues is ongoing.
“There’s a real call for energy around this. These are complex issues that we’re dealing with and no single agency on its own has the ability to deal with any of them, but only collaboratively,” he said.
“That includes partners, it includes looking at facts, looking at data, and then it includes stepping off and taking action to meet those needs and ultimately, reduce the vulnerabilities in our community.”
– Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star. (The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.)
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