Police foot patrols meet with approval in Dryden

By Mike Stimpson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Thunder Bay Source

DRYDEN – Downtown foot patrols have worked in more ways than one, according to the local Ontario Provincial Police detachment.

Dryden OPP, which replaced a municipal police force in the city of 8,000 in 2023, has officers on downtown foot patrol at least 10 times a day, according to Insp. Adam Illman.

“We are constantly hearing about how foot patrols are appreciated,” said Staff Sgt. Mitch Davis.

Even Illman, the detachment commander, goes out on foot patrol.

Illman has no doubt having officers walk, rather than drive, down Van Horne Avenue or King Street both deters crime and gives residents and businesses a sense of “safety and security.”

“We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from the public,” Acting Sgt. Brittany Bembeneck added.

At her shop on Princess Street, Tammy Fehr is among the downtown proprietors who appreciate the visible police presence.

“I see them quite often,” said Fehr, who owns The Flower Forest. “I see them early when I come to work, which is reassuring.”

She has noticed that foot patrols became more frequent after city policing transitioned from a municipal force to the OPP on Feb. 24, 2022.

“I can honestly say I see them out and about more,” she said, adding that police are responsive to calls from the community.

“We’ve had a couple of times where we’ve had to call police because of things happening, and they’re always here within a very reasonable time.”

The downtown foot patrols are “a proactive opportunity for us to get involved in our community,” said Bembeneck.

“And that directly correlates back to business owners and community members seeing officers downtown, where we are able to build relationships.

“We’re more approachable when we’re on foot, out of our police cars.”

She added that officers on sidewalks are “also a great opportunity to show young community members that policing is a great job (because) you get to be involved in your community.

“Maybe we can inspire someone to think about policing as they grow up.”

Connection to the community is important, said Illman.

“When you’re driving past or when you’re doing downtown focus patrols in your police vehicle, you don’t have that ability to interact, whereas when you are on foot you are interacting with the public and the business owners. It’s just that simple.”

In warmer months like June, officers can often be seen patrolling on bicycles as well.