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North Bay police chief meets with residents over coffee

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Newly sworn-in North Pay Police Chief Daryl Longworth is meeting up with residents at local coffee shops this week to listen to their frustrations and concerns in an effort to improve policing in the city.

He began Monday morning at Twiggs Coffee Roasters on Fraser Street where he heard a wide range of topics, including police criticism and social disorder.

New North Bay Police Chief Daryl Longworth is meeting with residents this week over coffee to hear their concerns about the community. April 29, 2024 (Eric Taschner/CTV Northern Ontario)

Over a steaming hot cup of joe, resident Sandy O’Grady welcomed Longworth to the community.

"I wrote him a letter and I handed him a letter about all the good things in North Bay and some of the things that worry me," O'Grady said.

She got right down to business addressing the safety concerns she has in the downtown core.

"I’m a supporter of the downtown and I know many women who refuse to go downtown out of fear," O'Grady said.

Longworth listened to her and others who said he needs to be aware of the ongoing struggles with homelessness, drug abuse, overdose rates and crime.

"I’m the chief. But I’m also a police officer who cares about this community," he told reporters after he met with about half a dozen residents.

"Many people may not buy into that because I’m new here. But I do care about this community because I took this job."

Longworth said he participated in a similar initiative when he was the police chief in Woodstock.

While he was the deputy chief in London, he said he took part in multiple town hall-style meetings with community members.

"Part of my hope for this police service is that we will be out more in the public, being more visible, building the respect and credibility with the public," Longworth said.

"So they do feel more comfortable coming to talk to us."

Jeff LeBrun, with the local Boots on the Ground team that offers peer support to first responders, had about a 10-minute conversation with Longworth about what he’s seen on the streets, including overdose rates.

New North Bay Police Chief Daryl Longworth listens to the concerns of a local resident at coffee shop. April 29, 2024 (Eric Taschner/CTV Northern Ontario)

LeBrun said community engagement is a step in the right direction.

"I never met the prior police chief prior whatsoever. As for the first day, this is great," he said.

"I think what needs to happen is that the police chief needs to take an active interest in letting the community know that the judicial system and enforcement are separate."

Longworth’s second coffee chat will be Wednesday from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at Tim Hortons on Seymour Street.

He said he believes open dialogue with the public is a way to build positive trust.

"They may not feel comfortable today or the next time or even the next time, but maybe in six months or a year down the road," Longworth said.

"But maybe when we've heard and we've actually responded to some of the things, maybe they’ll feel comfortable in coming to see us, if not me."

New North Bay Police Chief Daryl Longworth hears concerns from local residents at Twiggs Coffee Roasters. April 29, 2024 (Eric Taschner/CTV Northern Ontario)

O’Grady said she wants to see more community engagement and action to follow, but that it’s not just the police’s responsibility.

"If everybody in this city works together, maybe there will be some improvement," she said.

"I know that policing is a very complicated, difficult job and I wish him all the very best."

Longworth said he plans on taking his notes back to the police services board to look at ways to better improve policing in the city.

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