Hamilton police increase downtown presence to meet rise in crime


Published May 29, 2023 at 5:11 pm

hamilton police

Hamilton police have increased their presence downtown in the wake of businesses’ rising concerns about crime.

Police said their “park and walks” have been added to shifts over the past few months, which involves officers parking their cruisers and walking downtown.

The move follows complaints by downtown businesses that have cited a spike in violent incidents and illegal activity along with overall concerns about public safety.

As a result, you can see more officers getting out of their cruisers and going on foot patrol.

“We are aware of the challenges faced by local downtown businesses expressed during last month’s delegations at the Hamilton Police Service Board meeting,” said police spokesperson Jackie Penman in an email to inthehammer.com.

At the latest board meeting on May 25, the board addressed concerns about safety downtown, including those raised by Colin Watson, general manager of the Sheraton Hamilton Hotel. 

Watson said Hamilton’s largest hotel fears the decline of the downtown core and the loss of business because it has received “an ever growing number of negative” guest reviews concerning experiences on the street.

In a letter to the board, Watson said ongoing problems include vagrancy, drug use and drug dealing, violence, vandalism, graffiti, open drinking, concerns for personal safety and vehicle break-ins and theft in the underground parking.

“Guests and staff are worried about safety and feel scared going outside the hotel and walking in the area,” he wrote.

Watson said the hotel wants additional support from Hamilton police to increase patrols in the downtown core. He noted that staff have “experienced an increase in issues,” though they don’t have statistics. He said the hotel is working with the police and Tourism Hamilton to address the problems.

Watson pointed out that in the past when there was a higher police presence, crime wasn’t as bad as it is today. 

“Without that support we have seen increased issues,” he told inthehammer.com.

Homewood Suites by Hilton Hamilton and Staybridge Suites Hamilton also expressed similar concerns to the board. 

Police grappling with ‘increased workload demands’

Police have responded to 88 calls for service at the Sheraton hotel since the beginning of January, according to Penman. Between January to April, there has been a 12-per-cent increase in requests for police response through 911 and  non-emergency line and an eight-per-cent increase in the total number of police calls for service, as well as “a rise in the violent crime severity index.”

“We appreciate that people are not feeling safe in their community and their perception is important. We continue to balance pressures with staffing and increased workload demands as we maintain effective service delivery across Hamilton,” said Penman. “This is a complex community-wide issue that will require everyone working together to find solutions.”

The city says the public can contact police or Municipal Law Enforcement to enforce city bylaws, depending on the issue.
“It’s important to the City of Hamilton that the public feel welcome and safe throughout our city, and we’re committed to working with the community, including community organizations, businesses and police, to ensure that,” said James Berry, communications officer for the city, in a statement.

Emily Walsh, executive director of the Downtown Hamilton Business Improvement Area, said a “multifaceted approach” is needed beyond increased police presence. “We understand that these same issues are affecting downtowns everywhere and that they will require initiatives at all levels to find a solution,” said Walsh in an email to inthehammer.com. “These safety issues are complex … However, having a dedicated police presence with officers that know and understand the area is one way that we can work towards creating an environment that is safe and inviting to those who live, work, and spend time in downtown Hamilton.”



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