OSHAWA, ONT. -- The mayor of Oshawa is advocating for increased police foot patrols and surveillance cameras to combat a surge of criminal activity and issues surrounding an increased homeless population in the downtown since the onset of the pandemic.

The city has seen a spike in its homeless population since March, with Mayor Dan Carter saying that people are coming from as far as Toronto, Hamilton and Trenton and are not staying in the shelters.

“Before (the pandemic) we had between 40 to 60 individuals and now 292,” Carter said.

“We’ve got a vulnerable population that has come here to be looked after and the criminal element is victimizing those individuals. They see there are individuals they can take advantage of and sell their poison to and they’ve move into the area to that.”

Carter made a formal request to the Durham Regional Police Services Board last week following complaints from the business community, the Oshawa Chamber of Commerce and public library. The complaints include drug use and defecating on properties, vandalism and petty crimes.

“You will often find syringes on the ground, in stairwells and on benches,” said Sandra Black, the executive director of the Oshawa Senior Community Centres. “In terms of safety for our staff, they feel ill at ease either working late at night or coming in early in the morning not knowing what they are going to find.”

Among the request, the mayor is advocating for police to increase foot patrol in the downtown.

“Rotate them on a regular basis, so new officers can have different approaches and find different ideas and solutions,” Carter said.

The mayor is also calling on Durham police to partner with the Oshawa Business Improvement Area to use surveillance cameras to monitor the area.

“We know in other communities it works, it is a deterrent towards criminal behaviour,” he said.

Durham police is currently reviewing the mayors requests and determining the budget implications.

“We’re looking at a variety of deployment techniques to ensure we’re addressing the needs at the required times,” said Insp. David Saliba who is based out of the Central East Division in downtown Oshawa.

Saliba says in some instances the force has doubled its foot patrol and supports developing a camera program with the city and BIA.

“We as police cannot enforce our way out of this challenge, but we do own a piece of this solution and we are going to work with everybody collectively to make sure we do our part.”