The Safety Dance


We live in uncertain times.

Terror attacks seem to occur on a weekly basis. White nationalists march freely in the streets. And the threat of nuclear war hangs over us all. Not to mention that big orange idiot in the White House creating international calamities on a weekly (daily?) basis.

But with crisis comes opportunity, and in these moments of catastrophe we can trust our community to provide a place of solace, strength, and protection. Which is why I applaud the recent efforts by our Downtown Business Improvement Area to keep a watchful eye on the ever-growing number of miscreants and hoodlums in our beloved downtown area.

Those of you new to the city might not remember the good ol’ days of Peterborough’s downtown. A slick, progressive paradise of smiles, rainbows, and discarded needles, where roads and rivers and rampant alcoholism met. A place where everybody knew your name, and rent was only sort of outrageous. Every (third) storefront was full, and smiles were plastered on both the old and young.

Back then, stabbings occurred rarely, while violence and threatening language were usually only directed towards sexual minorities and people of colour. Sure, there were homeless men and women, but they were adorable creatures that played the bongos or sang Christmas carols off-key. Even the occasional uncomfortable outburst would elicit knowing chuckles from the locals, confident that our local police could deal with them.

But in recent years things have changed. The violence and intolerance of the outside world has begun to seep into our city. The previously endearing behaviour of the mentally ill forced onto our city streets has begun to feel threatening.

The fact that our downtown is statistically the safest place in the city is irrelevant. We, the (white, middle-aged) people, feel unsafe. And when we feel unsafe, it’s time for things to change.

And that change has arrived in the form of three local “ambassadors” who had the intelligence and technical acumen to pass a $145 online training course. Blessed with the speed and lung-power to apprehend both skateboarders and sidewalk bicyclists, these almost-cops provide the last line of defense between me (well-meaning citizen) and you (deranged lunatic).

Even better, it’s recently been announced that a whole slew of surveillance cameras will soon be provided to our downtown businesses, as long as they can afford half the cost after being shaken down by the provincial government to provide their employees a livable wage. The scoundrels. Having our privacy intruded upon is a small price to pay to make our local business owners feel secure, and after all, if you’ve done nothing wrong, certainly you have nothing to hide.

So I say “bravo” to these transparently ineffective attempts to solve a problem that doesn’t exist in the months before an ill-advised casino is built in our fair city. While the illusion of safety isn’t quite as effective as actual safety, I feel confident knowing my every move is being watched and assessed by both our trusted business people as well as security guards with the bare minimum training in crisis management.

So watch your Ps and Qs, citizens of Peterborough. You are now protected. Whether you want it or not.

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Doug Tilley

Doug Tilley

Doug Tilley is a lifelong geek, and an occasional pop-culture writer and podcaster. You can find his work on, where he regularly writes about microbudget movies and film-makers in his No-Budget Nightmares column. In 2011 he began the popular No-Budget Nightmares podcast with Moe Porne, with a second ludicrous podcast - Eric Roberts is the Fucking Man - following in 2015. According to friends, he's a pretty cool guy.