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Peace officers work to discourage loitering

Aug 05, 2014 12:30 pm | By Janani Whitfield | St. Paul Journal

Peace officers have been issuing tickets and making downtown patrols in efforts to curb the problems of loitering, peace officer Ryan Berezanski told Town of St. Paul council at its July 28 meeting.

Berezanski told council that bylaw enforcement had been trying “to make as many patrols as we can in the downtown area,” following a delegation from the local Elks at a previous council meeting. The Elks members had said loitering by their lodge was raising safety concerns and making hall rentals more difficult.

He told the Journal in a phone call after the meeting, “We're making proactive patrols and we've handed out some tickets.” These are typically tickets issued under the provincial offence of drinking in public or being drunk in public, which carries a potential $150 fine, he said.

RCMP and peace officers can hand out this type of ticket, but Berezanski notes that fines issued often proceed to warrants for arrest. “They're either not paying them or they're not showing up to plead not guilty.”

He notes peace officers can just tell people to disperse, which can be effective as well, or issue a fine under its newer “community standards” bylaw, which deals with, in part, public behavior. Littering, urination and defection, dangerous actions, fighting, panhandling, and curfew rules are all covered under this Bylaw 1202 and violations of the bylaw carry a fine of $175, he said.

Berezanski told council that peace officers had been dealing with the area beside the Elks lodge and working to clean it up.

Coun. Edna Gervais said following the council meeting Elks attended, she had exited the town building only to be accosted by people hanging around nearby, who had shouted names at her. “Norm had to escort me to my car,” she said of fellow councillor Norm Noel.

Noel told council that St. Paul's Champions for Change group was interested in working with the town to spearhead initiatives to deal with the issue.

In a phone call following the meeting, Noel said Champions for Change would work with the town “to help host a public forum to try and help resolve the vagrancy issue that is hitting our community.” He said he would hope to see business owners, people from the medical profession, people on the street and anyone else interested in coming out join in discussing the issue. Champions for Change will be meeting to decide the next steps, he said.

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