The city’s new community services department (now known as the bylaws department) will work 24 hours per day, seven days a week beginning in September.
City council has approved the hiring of an additional 2.8 full-time equivalent community services officer positions at a cost of $265,000 per year to increase service by eight hours per day, allowing for a round-the-clock presence.
Community service manager Tammy Blundell said the officers will support a daily 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift — something not previously done with the city’s bylaws department.
The changes will lead to city staff eventually replacing private security now on contract to patrol areas of Kamloops.
“Ultimately, it comes down to a presence on the street and having a security presence, having the ability to direct individuals to the shelters, if needed, connecting outreach services with individuals,” Blundell told KTW.
“Of course, this all comes with the heightened awareness of all of our social issues. This is council’s directive. They want that presence on the street.”
The new positions will provide that street presence, but also support Kamloops RCMP with matters such as noise complaints, neighbourhood patrols, securing city facilities, traffic control, emergency support and collection of garbage, shopping carts and discarded needles and syringes.
“Ultimately, it’s the evolving role and changing role of the community services officer,” Blundell said.
The city’s community services budget was previously about $2.7 million per year. The additional positions increase the budget to just shy of $3 million annually. Blundell said that in 2021, the new positions will be funded with savings from current vacancies.
The city will include hiring for the new positions in its current recruitment process for the department. Meanwhile, that process has not yet been completed and, in addition to the additional positions, council has approved $75,000 in COVID-19 relief funds to support patrols downtown and along the Tranquille Corridor in North Kamloops until the department reaches its full staffing levels.
Last year, the city spend $190,000 on private security.
Coun. Arjun Singh referenced the recent altercation between a security guard and a homeless man at the city’s storage facility for the homeless, downtown on West Victoria Street .,
Singh expressed concern that the community services officers would not be hitting the streets until the fall. He said as summer approaches, he hopes there is understanding that the vulnerable population is considered, citing security without outreach “unbalanced.”