TIMMINS -- Timmins Police Chief John Gauthier and his staff met with Downtown Timmins BIA officials for a virtual meeting recently.

He presented some statistics to help clear up some misconceptions people have about safety concerns.

Gauthier said people need to know that the Living Space Homeless Shelter is not to blame for all crimes in the downtown. He said while break-ins were up in 2020, the downtown only accounted for 13 per cent of them.

“And there’s also the myth that the homeless are the opioid users -- of the 29 suspected opioid-related deaths in 2020, there’s one with no fixed address," said Gauthier.

He also said business owners asked for more presence downtown and in the spring, summer and fall, he increased foot patrols and covert surveillance by more than 4,000 hours.

But he said he won't always be able to do that because currently, 15 out of 88 sworn officers are off work.

“I’ve seen more of my staff off on extended leave than ever before. The impact that that has on us is not good," said Gauthier.

Downtown officials said they are pleased to learn about the initiatives and statistics, as well as hearing that two more security cameras will be installed.

“The perception that our streets are crime-ridden ... there’s no data to back that up," said Jamie Roach, president of the board of directors for Downtown Timmins BIA.

"That’s a perception and I think TPS (Timmins Police Service) is there to help both the BIA and our business owners let the community know that the downtown is a safe place to come."

Roach added the BIA is also looking forward to working with property owners and a transitional living crew to clean up the alleyways.