Committee tackles the many hazards of Iqaluit

Council to consider recommendations for safer city

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

JOHN BIRD

The list is long and exhaustive. It includes motion-sensitive lighting, designated snowmobile crossings, incentives for homeowners to crime-proof their property, drug-and-alcohol training for teenagers, safety concerns built into development planning – and even a liquor store for Iqaluit.

All these recommendations and many more are on the ambitious agenda of the city’s public safety committee.

The PSC will bring a detailed and prioritized public safety plan to council, with specific proposals for implementation, including possible funding options, before its initial mandate runs out at municipal election time this October.

Many of the items come from a brainstorming session at a public meeting last fall on safety concerns organized after a vicious sexual assault near the high school.

The safety committee also took its first concrete step at a meeting last week: asking council to immediately seek financing from the Department of Community and Government Services to pay for signage designating high-traffic snowmobile crossings in town.

Iqaluit is already applying for money from the CGS “Access Trails” fund to clear some boulders from the tidal zone along strategic routes to allow smoother snowmobile access out into the bay, and the PSC wants the city to piggyback on that proposal.

The signs will indicate to hunters and recreational snowmobile users the acceptable places to cross, and will warn car and truck drivers to be on the alert.

“We’ve already got one dead and two injured in recent months from snowmobile-automobile collisions,” RCMP Staff-Sgt. Leigh Tomfohr pointed out. “If we don’t develop these crossings, people will cross wherever they want.”

Tomfohr’s participation in the meeting as head of the Iqaluit RCMP detachment was an important step forward for the fledgling group, which has expressed a desire to work closely with police.

He said he has already reorganized staff schedules to provide a minimum of four police “on the road” almost all the time – and soon to be all the time.

There will be further improvements, he said, when the new RCMP building opens, with facilities for three dispatchers at a time, instead of the two who now cover all of Nunavut.

Tomfohr also said that with organizing help from the public safety committee, members of his detachment are prepared to offer:

* Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) workshops to high-school students;
* personal safety workshops for adults, especially women;
* workshops for homeowners on things they can do around house and property to reduce the likelihood of vandalism, theft or break-ins (based on the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design or CPTED);
* to support the development of a Neighbourhood Watch program in Iqaluit; and
* to help set up and work with a victims services program in which police connect trained volunteers directly with victims of crime to make sure they get help with needs like safe housing, counseling, medical attention and court preparation support.

Safety committee members welcomed the RCMP initiatives and will integrate them into the public safety plan.

They went on to list additional items for the plan, which will be fleshed out by a working group and refined at committee meetings in coming months for presentation to council at the beginning of October.

The PSC is still seeking more public input into its work, and welcomed all Iqalummiut to attend the committee meetings, where they will have a chance to be heard.

The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., on Thursday, June 18, in the city council chambers. The committee will also participate in a city-wide public consultation at the Arctic Winter Games Arena on May 29.

Here’s the partial list:

Iqaluit’s public safety committee has an ambitious list of items for the public safety plan it will present to council this fall. Here are some of them:

Lighting:

* As the city rewrites its general plan the PSC wants it to include a “statement of intention” to provide enough street lighting so as to leave no dangerous spots unlit. The committee will identify the worst places and help produce a prioritized plan to work towards fixing them over the coming years.
* Motion-activated lights should be set up at strategic spots on walking and skidoo trails, starting with the steps behind the high school.
* A CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) zoning bylaw will encourage home and business owners to install photosensitive lights on their property. There may also be incentive grants to homeowners to install the lights, and annual awards for those whose lighting provides the safest environment.

Roadways:

* Look at ways to relieve congestion at the Four Corners during rush periods (turning lanes, traffic lights.)
* Introduce a trucking and heavy equipment bylaw specifying truck routes, hours of operation and minimum standards for tarping and securing loads.
* Develop engineering and maintenance policies to eliminate dangerous ditching.
* Ensure maintenance crews clear away banks left by snowplows at pedestrian crossings.
* Work with the Department of Education, RCMP and city bylaw staff to provide crossing guards to children going to and from schools.

Playgrounds:

* Seek community group sponsorships and Brighter Futures funding to provide two supervisors in each playground during summer months to run recreation and anti-bullying programs.
* Establish a sports council to raise money and help kids who can’t afford it to participate in sports and other recreation.

Litter:

* Provide an impound yard so police have somewhere to store confiscated cars, trucks, snowmobiles and ATVs, which currently often have to be left on the roadside.
* Include the removal of derelict vehicles in a traffic bylaw.
* Introduce annual awards for things like the most improved properties, or the homes and businesses of the year.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse:

* Institute the DARE program.
* Review and possibly amend the zoning controls and hours of operation for establishments licensed to serve alcohol.
* To make bootlegging less profitable, consider opening a liquor store – with restrictions.
* Establish a youth emergency shelter, as well as treatment and counseling centres for addictions.

Other:

* Develop and update a directory of all the public safety services currently available in the city and make it available online and in print.
* Work with the Qulliit Status of Women Council to promote ongoing discussion and workshops to raise awareness of the problem of sexual assault and to send a clear message that it will not be tolerated.
* Include CPTED in planning bylaws, and establish an oversight committee to review all development plans to make sure they meet CPTED principles.
* Establish a welcome wagon program to help newcomers and transients feel more invested in the community.
* Train city staff and utility workers to act as “eyes on the street” to watch out for and alert police to potential criminal activity.
* Work with the RCMP to institute an “incident evaluation” program to identify further safety needs.

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