Toronto to hire private security guards to patrol parks to prevent encampments from popping up

Private security guards will soon be patrolling some Toronto parks around the clock as part of the city’s efforts to prevent camps from appearing.

Brad Ross, a spokesman for the city, confirmed to CP24 on Wednesday that the city has issued a solicitation for proposals (RFP) for contracted security to monitor the parks.

“The contracted security guards will ensure that city parks are safe and accessible to all Toronto residents, including free access to green space for safe outdoor recreation,” Ross said in a statement.

“Contracted on-site security will monitor high priority parks 24 hours a day and immediately notify the city if an illegal tent or structure is placed in a park.”

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

The city said the guards will be deployed at Trinity-Bellwoods Park, Alexandra Park and Lamport Stadium Park – the locations the city targeted for clearing their encampment last year. It added that Dufferin Grove will also see additional guards.

The city noted that in addition to the guards, the company’s security personnel will also be present in other parks “to ensure they remain safe and prevent camps from being set up.”

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

The story was first reported by CBC.

It wouldn’t be the first time the city has hired private guards to clear up encampments. In 2021, the city contracted private security guards as part of its workforce to carry out trespassing in the downtown parks and clear homeless camps, leading to violent clashes between police and protesters.

Earlier this month, internal documents revealed that the city had spent months planning to evict about two dozen people from a homeless camp in Trinity-Bellwoods Park, preparing files on residents and involving hundreds of council workers in the process.

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

Doug Johnson Hatlem, a street pastor at Sanctuary Toronto, called the city’s approach “not good” and said it shows how local officials are not willing to do what it takes to properly address housing affordability and the problem of homelessness.

“Acting with extra guards just means the problem moves to other parks, to canyons. There are over 1000 parks in the city. And if they’re going to hire guards to go to all the parks, I think they can do that.” But it’s a big waste of money,” Hatlem said.

“I think the decoupling comes from wanting to take an easy route, rather than a difficult one in the short term that will pay dividends in the long run,” he added.

– With files from The Canadians Press

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