THUNDER BAY -- City police will officially switch to zone policing in early June, more than 18 months after announcing the planned change.
Calling it one of the biggest changes the police service has ever seen, Thunder Bay Police Service Chief J.P. Levesque said the long-delayed switch to a zone policing model will start early next month.
“We’re going back to the way things were when I was hired 27 years ago,” Levesque said in an interview after Tuesday’s police services board meeting at the Balmoral Street station.
“Officers will be assigned to a zone, hopefully take on some ownership and the people who live and work in the areas will get to know the officers.”
Zone policing will take effect beginning on June 3.
The city will be broken into five zones, plus Oliver Paipoonge. Each zone will have close to a dozen officers on patrol and they will serve in their respective zone for one year.
Levesque said zone policing is designed to provide continuity to unique regions in the city.
The program was initially supposed to be implemented earlier this year, but the change to 12-hour shifts for officers created scheduling challenges.
Senior officers had to work with the police association to revise procedures and policies to accommodate both the zone policing model as well as the shift length revision.
The new system will complement one of the force’s community based initiatives.
The Zone Watch program, which has been operating for more than a year, is similar to the older community and neighbourhood policing methods.
Executive officer Chris Adams said the plan all along was to have the two working in concert.
Being able to develop partnerships with the same officers in the same areas is something the close to 80 volunteers of the program have been waiting for.
“It was a shame on one side we couldn’t marry it up as quickly as we had wanted with the actual patrol model but that’s coming. The people that have volunteered are very much looking forward to that,” Adams said.
“The whole idea was to connect officers with interested citizens who had a real stake in their neighbourhoods and we think that marriage between the two was going to make both successful. It’s very critical it works in tandem.”
About 20 additional volunteers will be trained for Zone Watch this weekend and Adams said the program has been received very favourably by the public.