The Victoria Police Department looks at ‘increasing police visibility and engagement’ downtown. (Courtesy of VicPD)

Victoria police launches downtown core ‘visibility and engagement’ program

VicPD’s Project Downtown Connect has officers engage with business owners, staff

VicPD is responding to the concerns of the downtown business community with a new initiative they’re calling Project Downtown Connect.

The police force says they hope to increase police visibility and engagement in the City’s downtown core with four-months of “consistent, high-visibility presence in the downtown area.”

The initiative follows a series of thefts and crimes reported by Victoria businesses, a number of which banded together to hire a private security company in January.

READ ALSO: Downtown Victoria businesses band together to hire private security company following rise in theft

In particular, shop owners in the lower Johnson Street shopping district said they had seen a rise in thefts and mental health incidents and many were frustrated by slow response times after calling the police non-emergency line.

“[It’s] very frustrating for staff and we just want to ensure we can make them feel safe,” Tara Savartka, owner of Baggins Shoes told Black Press Media in January.

In a statement, Mayor Lisa Helps says small businesses are “part of the lifeblood of our city.”

“I am proud of the work of VicPD officers and of their responsiveness and continued commitment to a high level of service in the downtown core,” she said.

VicPD says Project Downtown Connect will have officers engaging with business owners and staff to recommend security improvements and applicable bylaws. The police will also provide education on how and when to report incidents to police.

READ ALSO: Victoria security company sees jump in clients in lower downtown after influx of thefts

“We are excited to see VicPD more present in our downtown core,” says a statement from Jeff Bray of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. “This initiative is a positive step in enhancing the safety of business employees and customers in our community.”

– With files from Nicole Crescenzi.

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