FORT ST. JOHN, B.C.— The City of Fort St. John has identified its next steps in improving safety throughout the community following last month’s Let’s Talk engagement session.
The city held the session at the Festival Plaza last month after local business owners expressed concerns regarding community safety at a regular council meeting in April.
Through the open house, the city aimed to involve local businesses, Fort St. John residents, and community partners in addressing concerns and challenges surrounding community safety. Several community partners, such as the RCMP and Salvation Army, had booths set up at the event to answer resident’s questions.
As part of the engagement process, community members and local business owners were asked to provide input in a survey, which was compiled in a report and presented to council on Monday.
The survey looked at how safe residents and business owners feel in the community compared to previous years.
When participating residents were asked about their personal sense of safety within their neighbourhood, 25.7 per cent said they felt “much less safe” compared to one year ago, and 36.2 per cent felt “much less safe” compared to five years ago.
Local business owners represented 15 per cent of the survey participants. When asked about their sense of safety in their business neighbourhood, 47.1 per cent of participating business owners said they felt “much less safe” compared to one year ago, and 64.7 per cent felt “much less safe” compared to five years ago.
When asked if their business had been a victim of crime in the community over the past twelve months, 63 per cent of participating business owners said yes, and 38 per cent said no.
The survey also asked participants to rank the “biggest challenges” in the community compared to the “least challenging issues.” Survey participants ranked property crime, use or trafficking of illicit substances, and homelessness as the top three biggest challenges, and litter, broken glass, trash, or graffiti as the least challenging issue.
Earlier this month, the Fort St. John RCMP released its semi-annual report, showing a 63.9 per cent increase in property crimes compared to last year. Although the report detailed an increase in RCMP calls to service, it’s essential to note trends are returning to pre-pandemic, historical norms.
Based on results from the engagement session, the city has identified its next steps in creating a safer community in Fort St. John.
The city plans to continue to advocate higher levels of government to address the challenges of recent legislative changes and enhance social services within the region.
The city will also work to establish Situation Table and Housing First programs in the community.
A Situation Table, also known as a Hub, is a provincial government program to help frontline staff from the public safety, health, and social service sectors to identify vulnerable people and connect them to services before they experience a negative or traumatic event. Housing First programs move individuals experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing as a first step before providing mental health and recovery options.
Another step the city has identified is taking the necessary action to support the establishment of a Citizens on Patrol group in Fort St. John. Last month, a local woman began the recruitment process for the group, whose role is to provide extra eyes and ears for the RCMP.
The city plans to work with RCMP to enhance education and communication opportunities and investigate potential business grants related to safety, security, and vandalism.
The city will also continue to work with and support community partners to address community safety challenges in Fort St. John.
The full report, including results from the survey, can be viewed here.