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Security options for Moccasin Flats going before city council

City council will consider options including increased RCMP patrols, private security and concrete traffic barriers.
The east end of the Lower Patricia encampment, called Moccasin Flats by residents, is seen on Thursday, March 9.

Prince George city council will consider options for enhanced security at the Lower Patricia encampment, named Moccasin Flats by residents, on Wednesday night.

In a report going to city council on Wednesday night, city director of public safety Adam Davey recommends that city council approve hiring private security contractors to patrol the area around the encampment 12 hours a day and install concrete traffic barriers along the roadway to ensure emergency vehicle access. In addition, the city has already authorized costs for extra RCMP overtime patrols, which will be focused on the Moccasin Flats area.

“The costs associated with these options, less the previously approved RCMP overtime patrols, are currently not budgeted for,” Davey wrote. “To be clear, these security enhancement options are unlikely to result in a safe living environment within the Lower Patricia encampment. The encampment continues to be a hazard to human health and life safety, and the City recommends occupants use available shelter space. Enhanced security measures may provide a feeling of increased safety for nearby residents and businesses.”

The cost of providing two security guards in vehicles 12 hours a day (7 p.m to 7 a.m.), seven days a week was estimated at $400,000 per year. Davey recommended approving the measure on a pilot-project basis for the remainder of 2023, using $113,000 in Strengthening Communities Grant funding the city has received to offset a portion of that cost. Expanding security coverage to 24-hours per day would roughly double the cost per year, he added.

“The roving patrols would operate within the vicinity of the encampment, to include Upper Patricia, the encampment boundaries, and the industrial areas East of Queensway. These patrols would act as an early warning for 911 response, in an ‘observe and report’ capacity,” Davey wrote. “Because of the passive observe and report nature of private security, the return on investment may be marginal. The benefit of private security specific to encampments is largely optics, with the potential for an early warning to 911 through observation.”

If the encampment grows to have more than roughly 100 occupants, additional security would be needed, he added.

Installing 150 No-Post concrete barriers along the 740 metres of road right-of-way through the encampment will help ensure emergency vehicle access, and was estimated to cost $80,000 to purchase and install.

Fencing to enclose the entire greenbelt area of the Lower Patricia Boulevard from Queensway to the pumphouse at Highway 16 was estimated to cost $450,000 and was expected to be effective, Davey wrote.

“Currently there are two chain-link fences running parallel to the roadway,” Davey wrote. “The fences continue to be damaged and dismantled for illegal use to harden occupants’ dwelling-structures. The ongoing maintenance resources required to upkeep a new fence are considerable.”

Davey also recommended that city council postpone approval of changes to the city’s Parks and Open Spaces Bylaw, which would designated Moccasin Flats as the only public area in the city where overnight camping is allowed, to allow city staff to act on council’s direction regarding additional security measures at the site. Davey also recommended that city council endorse the B.C. government’s new Homes for People plan and support the provinces proposed new measures to end encampments.