The Downtown Campbell River Business Improvement Association (BIA) is working to make the city’s core a safer and more welcoming place, by facilitating the hiring of a private security company and completing beautification projects.
The organization is looking to change perceptions about downtown safety, which have worsened from impacts of COVID-19, explained Heather Gordon Murphy, Downtown Campbell River BIA board chair.
“The pandemic has certainly highlighted safety and security, because for such a long period of time, there were less people downtown — literally, shops were closed up and there was nobody here,” she said.
To target criminal activity downtown, the organization is coordinating the hiring of Blackbird Security (Blackbird), a Vancouver-based security company, to conduct nighttime bike patrols. Downtown businesses will be paying for this service.
“I’m not faulting the RCMP — they have a big job to do and they have a tough job. The RCMP are pretty good about coming down when you phone them, because I phone them all the time,” she said. “But what we need is somebody to go up and down Shoppers Row.”
Blackbird will patrol between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. — after security and bylaw officers have clocked out for the day.
“That’s when a lot of the stuff happens,” said Gordon Murphy.
Once enough businesses — around 50 — sign up for the service, the patrols will run every night. For now, they will start running two or three nights a week. The company has experience conducting similar patrols in Duncan, Vernon, and Vancouver, said Gordon Murphy.
Blackbird will coordinate their efforts with Campbell River RCMP, municipal enforcement and social services.
“They will proide options for where people can go,” she said.
The company is already used locally by Canadian Tire, Shopper’s Drug Mart, and Thrifty Foods, said Jan Wade, Downtown Campbell River BIA executive director.
With events still sidelined by COVID-19, Downtown Campbell River BIA is now focusing much of its effort and budget on beautification projects, to make the city’s downtown more welcoming to residents and tourists alike. These include painted pots with flower displays, murals and banners by local artists, lighting and a new wayfaring map.
“Because it’s been so darn cold out, the pansies we planted — they’re spectacular,” said Wade.
These projects are being funded by this year’s downtown beautification grant from the City of Campbell River for $7,500, an amount which the organization matches.
Spirit Square is also getting a makeover, as city council approved a $30,000 request to paint the square’s art banner poles, which will be painted blue, with black crossbars. Once that work is complete, the organization will be looking to install new banners there.
Gordon Murphy hopes that as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, events will start to be held again, “even if it’s just small activities,” she said.
An option is restarting Campbell River Live Streets, which in past years featured outdoor concerts and art events.
“Those will come back in small bits, so hopefully that will encourage people to come downtown,” she said.