Over the past few years public safety has emerged as a real concern in Midland. Like most urban areas, small towns to large cities, Midland is experiencing an increase of incidents, particularly downtown, driven by several factors including poverty, homelessness and drugs. The impact is also spreading to other parts of our community.
During the campaign, I have spoken about this issue with many of you at your door and in meetings across town. Experiences and perceptions vary. There are many different ideas about how to solve these problems and who is responsible. Some are within the scope of the Town but many are structural and require resources or change in programs or laws controlled by senior levels of government. The recent report of the Community Safety Task Force outlines a list of short-term and long-term solutions to be considered by the new Council.
Sustainable and effective solutions will require action not by Council acting alone, but in collaboration with community partners in law enforcement, social and mental health services and shelter providers. For example:
- Under the new Police Act municipalities are required to create a community-wide Safety Plan which is then executed by the Community Safety Board (Police Services Board). Already, the OPP are looking to implement their Community Outreach and Support Team (COAST) program in Midland in the near future. It will put mental health resources in play along with enforcement.
- The Midland Public Library is making changes to its facility to enhance security for staff and patrons. During the past summer it employed a full-time social worker and trained staff to respond to a variety of safety related concerns. It is open to all who respect its code of conduct and offers social programs such as addiction support year-round.
- The Situation Table, comprised of several agencies meets weekly to assess critical cases an ensures resources are allocated to addresses case specific issues.
- The Street Outreach Program administered by the Salvation Army continues to be a cornerstone for successful interventions on the street without having to involve enforcement action yet getting folks the resources they need. A truly inspiring effort by Denis Laurin!
These are just four of the many ways we can mobilize community resources.
As mayor I will lead Council and staff to select and implement the most effective short-term recommendations of the Downtown Public Safety Task Force. Key elements will include:
- Promoting increased collaboration and communication amongst a broader stakeholder group
- Education programs delivered across the community to raise awareness of the issues in the downtown
- Financial support to increase social programming, additional street outreach and enhanced shelters and operations
- Improving infrastructure (e.g., lighting, signalized intersections, pedestrian crosswalks …)
In the longer term I will work with senior governments to secure funds and with local partners to develop enabling policies and programs that address underlying structural issues such as:
- Affordable housing
- Food security
- Mental health outreach
As Mayor McKay said recently in the Mirror, “We have a lot of work to do in our society…but we can work together. We can all live together in this town.”
The Mirror, 1 October 2018 “Task force submits lengthy list of recommendations to improve Midland’s downtown” available at https://www.simcoe.com/news-story/8929769-task-force-submits-lengthy-list-of-recommendations-to-improve-midland-s-downtown/
Midland Community Safety Task Force Report (as part of Council Agenda 2018-09-24)