‘Prepare to be amazed’ reads the sign as you drive into the city of Oshawa. However, to some people, the dim lights and graffiti paint Oshawa as an unsafe place.
Oshawa Councillor Doug Sanders, who is in charge of improving the downtown, said the steps are being taken to make Oshawa a safer place.
After homophobic-related vandalism and assaults, Oshawa’s LGBTQ Committee issued a survey asking all residents how safe they felt in downtown Oshawa.
The survey results showed the downtown as fairly safe during the day, but the safety at night is less assuring.
“We’re a diverse community and we support all residents,” Coun. Sanders said in regards to homophobia in downtown Oshawa.
Coun. Sanders acknowledges that lighting in the downtown core could be just one of the reasons for the survey results.
“There’s not as many feet on the street, and there’s a lot of businesses that close down at say 5 p.m. when they could actually operate longer,” he said.
The survey identified a lack of streetlights in downtown Oshawa as a key concern for safety.
Coun. Sanders said the Business Improvement Area (BIA) took on a project recently to add more streetlights to the downtown area.
“If we have to improve lighting then we are looking at those opportunities to improve lighting in different areas,” said Coun. Sanders.
The Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) and BIA constantly work together to improve safety, he said.
By attending the council meetings, Coun. Sanders said the DRPS is always in the know about different ideas, projects, and other areas of improvement.
The BIA has asked DRPS for information on any acts of vandalism, break-ins, or assaults so they can track safety and find more ways for improvement in specific areas, Coun. Sanders said.
“If we do have dark, secluded alleys somewhere then let’s get some lighting on them, get some security cameras on them, let’s move the people on that are creating these unsafe areas,” Coun. Sanders said.
He also pointed out that the BIA is looking into adding more police presence in the downtown area.
Coun. Sanders said foot patrol or parked police cars in the area might be needed to improve safety.
With new housing developments, transit additions, and construction of a new hotel nearing completion, Coun. Sanders sees a positive future for Oshawa.
According to the BIA, the vacancy rate in the downtown area has dropped 21 per cent, resting at nine per cent right now. Coun. Sanders said the activity in downtown Oshawa will continue to grow as businesses open up in the area.
By having more feet on the street, Coun. Sanders believes that people will feel safer in the community.
The goal is to have a community that feels safe, he said, and the BIA is constantly looking to improve the downtown.
Coun. Sanders said they are trying to promote youth leadership and entrepreneurship through Core21, a business hub.
“We are trying to create things so that the students want to stay here when they graduate or want to stay here when they open their business because we believe they’re the future,” he said.