SASKATOON -- Starting Wednesday, the Saskatoon Police Service is beefing up its presence in the downtown core as part of an initiative to educate the public through enforcement.

“To give that sense around downtown that we are serious about keeping the area safe, keeping it clean and offering that enjoyment to our citizens of Saskatoon,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Kiesman.

Foot patrol officers will be watching for infractions of bylaws and provincial and federal statutes in an effort to enhance safety in the area.

Kiesman said enforcement can include fines but it all depends on the offence.

He said the goal is not to punish but to create awareness and educate people by being visible in the area and by speaking to people.

Police blitzes like this are done a few times a year and the focus now is because people have expressed some concern about safety in the downtown core.

“A lot of it has to do with Alcohol and Gaming Regulation Act offences and Controlled Drugs and Substances Act offences that are occurring right out in the open in our downtown area,” Kiesman said.

“People want to be able to come down to our downtown area, do their shopping, have their lunch and feel like they’re in a safe environment and not having to deal with some of these issues that they have concerns about.”

Police were unable to comment on how many extra officers they’ll have in the area but said it will be a noticeable increase from the regular foot patrol and bike patrol officers that are assigned to the area on a daily basis.

Anna Pacik, fundraising and communications manager for the Lighthouse Supported Living, said she’s glad to see an increased police presence in the area as she believes it’ll help the facility’s more than 140 permanent residents and 61 shelter users feel safe.

The Lighthouse is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak and Pacik said as a result, the facility has been getting threatening and mean phone calls.

“We’re grateful that the police are going to be out there and maybe stepping up patrols around the downtown core and maybe around our building as well, because it’ll help our residents to feel safe. They’re often victimized by folks that do come downtown.“

Pacik also said having more police visibility might help with the perception of safety downtown.

Brent Penner, executive director of the Downtown Saskatoon Business Improvement District, agrees. He said it also gives businesses the chance to get to know the officers that patrol the area.

“You develop a relationship with that individual and helps to better communications and allows the police to better understand the different things that are going on, kind of who’s who around the district,” he said.

People can expect to see an increase in police presence downtown during the day and into the evening between now and Saturday and Nov. 4 to 7.