A survey for Kenora's police services board found 80 per cent of respondents felt safe in their homes and in their neighbourhood, but 70 per cent said they didn't feel safe walking downtown alone at night.

The detachment commander for the Kenora OPP, Insp. Jeff Duggan, noted respondents felt safer, if they were walking in pairs at night.

"I would strongly encourage people, if they're not comfortable, to do that. Find a friend. Find a group of people, if they want to go for a walk at night," he said, following the release of the survey earlier today.

Over 700 people responded, with 96 per cent of those being permanent full-time residents of Kenora. 

The pandemic hasn't meant a slower pace for Kenora police. Officers responded to 168 calls over the last weekend for a monthly total of about 1,427 calls.

This is actually about 300 calls in a month more than the 1,142 calls the detachment received in January 2020, which was before the pandemic started.

It's also an increase of about 200 calls for service from the December 2020, when officers responded to 1,201 calls.

In all of 2020, the detachment responded to 16,093 calls, which is their lowest total since before meth arrived in 2016, when officers responded to 13,907 calls.

In response to the community's concerns, the detachment commander talked about:

  • Based on the feedback, the Kenora OPP have made the following changes to policing: 
  • Partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association Kenora Branch to bring two Mobile Crisis and Outreach teams to the Citizens of Kenora and Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls. The teams respond and deal with calls for service dealing with mental health. 
  • Partnered with the Kenora Chiefs Advisory to bring a Joint Mobile team that deals with youth aged 12 to 24. 
  • Partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association Kenora Branch for the creation of a Safe Bed Program. This program is a short-term residential program that provides persons who are 16 years of age and older in mental health and addiction crisis with a short term stay of 30 days with 24/7 residential crisis support services. In order to be eligible, clients need to be in contact with law enforcement and experiencing a mental health crisis. 
  • Increased the size of our Community Street Crime Unit to deal with street level drug enforcement and property crime calls for service. 
  • Assigned members daily to conduct foot patrols of the downtown core and other high crime areas. Soon we will be moving our Community Policing Office to another highly visible downtown location. 
  • Report calls for service to the local media weekly to educate the public on the number of calls and the type of situations responding to regularly.

The inspector noted he acknowledged people's perceptions, and there safety concerns about being out after dark. 

"People do feel unsafe. That really is people's own perception, and it's not wrong," he added.

Sara Dias leads the city's branch for the Canadian Mental Health Association, and she lobbied the province to be a member of the police services board, where she's now the chair.

Following the completion of the downtown shelter and remand centre, a treatment centre and supportive housing units are also being proposed for the city. In her comments following the release of the survey results, Dias emphasized the importance of partnerships and working together to help ease long-standing social issues.

"Absolutely, with our organization, it's not an us and them. We work in partnership with police. They come into our building. They're accepted. We ensure they're treated as anybody would be, within our building," she said, following the release of the survey.

We're not able to do any of these initiatives without the consistent partnership and the collaboration of our police services," she said.

In return, there has been a better working relationship, Dias noted.

"The respect and professionalism police are providing to the individuals coming in, is something I haven't seen in many years. It's just amazing to see what that interaction is, and we look forward to continuing those partnerships, as we move forward," she continued.

For more than three years now, Kenora police have been working with the mental health association, as well as the Kenora Chiefs Advisory and Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services for the creation of mobile response teams. The teams are meant to diffuse and divert calls for service, as well as provide more effective and timely assistance for those in crisis. 

For more information:

City of Kenora - Survey results

Abinoojii unveils youth crisis response team

Mental health workers join police on Kenora's frontline

Council works to reduce OPP costs

Crisis Response Services Kenora Rainy River District