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Guelph police say their downtown resource officer pilot project will become a permanent fixture in the service.

Chief Gord Cobey made the announcement during a police services board meeting earlier this month as the pilot was scheduled to end at the end of September.

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The unit consists of five officers who are assigned to the downtown core in an effort to have a police presence in the area and build relationships with residents, businesses and outreach organizations.

“The feedback has been very positive,” Cobey said.

According to statistics he provided, there have been over 2,600 hours of service time dedicated to downtown and 250 hours of foot patrol since the pilot began on April 1.

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There have also been 180 charges laid by the five officers in the downtown since then.

Sgt. Dustan Howe heads up the unit and said the project’s initial stages were strange due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down businesses and emptying out the downtown.

But he added that overall, it has become successful.

“I would say that people who live downtown, people who frequent downtown, businesses, the business association and partner agencies are happy with the program,” he said.

Howe said that once the pilot project ends, the plan is to bring four new officers to the unit to join veteran officer Const. Mark O’Connell, who has been the downtown resource officer since last summer.

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The unit could see a new batch of officers rotate every six months, but that has not been set in stone as the service formulates a long-term plan.

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“It’s an opportunity not only for them to help and learn from the community, but also develop their skills in different aspects of policing that maybe they wouldn’t ordinarily be exposed to,” he said.

The mandate has not changed and the expectation is that the officers will continue to engage with the public and business owners on a regular basis while patrolling on foot.

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