Recent crime victims speak out as North Bay Police Service announces new Community Response Unit
NORTH BAY -- When North Bay resident Leo Hansen decided to step in to prevent three people from destroying property at Trinity Church, he had no idea it would turn into a potentially life-threatening situation.
"Heard one of them scream something vulgar, a window break, I turned the corner, told them to leave," said Hansen, who was heading downtown Wednesday morning for an appointment. "One of them took off, the other went to go and the third decided to tell me to leave and I said 'no.' And he decided to pull a knife and it turned in to a scuffle."
Although a scary situation, Hansen said that wasn't the worst part, with several bystanders just watching the situation unfold.
"The worst part of is there were others around that could have spoken up before I even did, and during it and no one did anything," he said.
There have been several posts on social media where local residents are uploading their own experiences including multiple break-ins, unwelcome visits and thefts in the area.
North Bay resident Jamie, who doesn't want her last name used, dealt with a break-in and robbery in Aug. while she and her sister were out of town for the weekend.
"Everything went missing. So, like I said, my grandmother's engagement ring, my clothes, she took all my shoes - I was down to one pair of shoes," said Jamie. "I had done all of my shopping for my job. I had to go back out and do it again. She took personal items, my hairbrush, my body wash, feminine hygiene products, like anything you can think of is gone."
She said since then there have been multiple break-in attempts.
Although many of the social media posts suggest that downtown is the biggest problem area, Jamie doesn't live in that part of the city.
"We no longer feel safe in North Bay," she said. "We do not feel safe at the house what so ever and we just don't feel like we're getting the support. The justice system, they need to be harder, they need to make these criminals more accountable for their crime."
Jamie said that she is planning a "peaceful protest" outside of the courthouse on Nov. 10 to help draw attention to this issue.
On Tuesday, a new Community Response Unit for the North Bay Police Service was announced at its monthly board meeting.
According to Deputy Chief Michael Daze, it is designed to help address the issues and challenges that the community is facing.
"The patrol's really to benefit everybody," he said. "When we talk about a community, there could be everything from criminal offences to provincial offences that are of concern. Whether that's speeding or vehicle stunt driving to certain issues that the downtown core is facing."
The new response unit is expected to be in full swing by Jan. and consist of four officers.
"I think this is our first step in and we have done projects before. We've looked at some community issues, we had a break and enter project that started in the spring and we had four officers assigned to that and we had really great results out of it," said Daze. "So these officers, being that they're proactive and they're not responding to calls being dispatched out of our headquarters, they're really able to focus on their task at hand and their projects and their engagement piece."
The addition of this new response unit is welcomed by downtown business owner Barry Klus.
"It's terrific for us business owners to feel that kind of security that police can provide and the presence and the community work they can do. I think it's an excellent way to go," said Klus.
He said that he's seen an increased police presence downtown already this year.
"What I was really pleased with was Deputy Chief Daze came to see me last week and sort of gave me a preamble of this," said Klus. "So they are very concerned about the downtown, and you know, one of the things they talk about is the people that will be on the team won't be pulled away with other things."
However, the big focus on downtown has caused concern for Jamie who doesn't live in that specific area of the city. Although she is on board with the new unit.
"It's good for them to get out and to do this. Will it help the situation I'm in? No. My crime was not downtown. I think it will drive the criminals more to residential than just downtown," she said. "I think it's great for the people who are downtown even, like the businesses and whatever, but for us residents, I don't think it's going to make a difference. It may make it worse for us."
However, Deputy Chief Daze said the new unit will cover the entire city and Callander as well.
"These are experienced police officers. They have a range of experience and they're officers that have been very good performers for us and are very skilled investigators," said Daze. "They're people that have expressed an interest in going out and working in the community and doing this kind of work. So those are the police officers that are stepping forward and are showing a real keen interest and are really excited to be joining the unit."
Even Hansen, who dealt with an incident first hand just this week, said the new unit will be an asset in the city.
"If they actually do it, good. They need to be in the areas that we need them. No other areas, downtown needs more patrols. It's simple," he said.
Adding that at the end of the day, it isn't just up to the police.
"It's up to the community themselves. You don't have to get physical with them, just bring attention to them. Make sure everyone around knows. I hollered to tell them to get away from there loud enough where people on the next block heard me," he said when referring to the incident Wednesday morning outside of Trinity Church. "But still, nobody did anything. If even one person spoke up, he would have realized there was more than just me there and he wouldn't have attacked me."
Hansen has no injuries, except a bruised rib, following the attack and a 29-year-old man has been charged on four counts, including assault with a weapon.
North Bay's Community Response Unit will be a high-visibility unit and will include everything from marked vehicles, uniforms, foot and bike patrol and interacting with the community.