Toronto will hire private security guards to patrol parks to deter homeless people

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Some Toronto parks may soon see private security guards patrolling around the clock as part of the city’s effort to prevent encampments from popping up.

Brad Ross, a city spokesperson, confirmed to CP24 on Wednesday that the city has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a security contract to monitor its parks.

“Contracted security guards will help ensure city parks are safe and accessible to all Toronto residents, including unhindered access to green spaces for safe outdoor recreation,” Ross said. in a press release.

“Contracted on-site security will monitor high-priority parks around the clock and notify the City immediately if an illegal tent or structure is erected in a park.”

In the statement, Ross reiterated that camping in the parks is “unhealthy and illegal” and noted that the city continues to provide indoor accommodation and services to homeless people.

The city said rangers will be deployed to Trinity-Bellwoods Park, Alexandra Park and Lamport Stadium Park – the sites targeted by the city for camp clearing last year. He added that Dufferin Grove will also see additional security guards.

The city noted that in addition to guards, its corporate security personnel will also be present at other parks “to ensure their safety and prevent the establishment of encampments.”

The cost of the project has not been determined pending the closing of the RFP.

The story was first reported by CBC.

It wouldn’t be the first time the city has hired private security guards to man the encampments. In 2021, the city hired private guards as part of its staff who enforced trespassing advisories in its downtown parks and cleared homeless encampments, leading to violent clashes between the police and protesters.

Earlier this month, internal documents revealed the city had spent months planning the evacuation of about two dozen people from a homeless encampment in Trinity-Bellwoods Park, building records on residents and involving hundreds of municipal workers in the process.

The city spent nearly $2 million last year to dismantle encampments and restore parks.

Doug Johnson Hatlem, a street pastor from Sanctuary Toronto, called the city’s approach ‘not fair’, saying it shows how unwilling local authorities are to do what it takes to properly tackle housing affordability and homelessness.

“Cracking down with extra security will just mean the problem will move to other parks, to ravines. There are over 1000 parks in the city. And if they have to hire security to go to each from them, I guess they can do it. But it’s a big waste of money,” Hatlem said.

“I think the disconnect comes from wanting to take an easy path, rather than a short-term hard path that will have long-term dividends,” he added.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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