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South end adds eyes on street
Residents in Nanaimo’s south end are taking a stand against crime with the launch of Block Watch, a neighbourhood network of people providing additional eyes and ears for RCMP.
“We want to make it a community like it was nine years ago,” said Tanya Hiltz, Block Watch team leader. “Where people could walk down the street and not have street walkers or drug addicts in their face.”
Hiltz and her husband Doug are the driving forces behind bringing Block Watch to the area, following the drug-related death of Angel Campbell on a sidewalk earlier this month.
Block Watch provides a safe way for residents to provide information to police about crimes or suspicious activity around their neighbourhood.
The program also partners with city bylaw enforcement to take care of nuisance properties in the area. A few businesses in the south end have even caught on to the program.
So far, eight neighbourhoods in the south end have been established with a captain, Hiltz said. Those captains act as a liaison with the RCMP by providing important crime information to participants.
In their Haliburton Street home, the Hiltzs have a large map of the south end. Red pins mark the problem areas, while blue and pink markings represent block captains and participating block watch businesses.
On his daily street patrols, Doug Hiltz cleans up needles and other drug paraphernalia off the street and shoos loitering drug users and prostitutes away from public areas.
The couple has overwhelming support from residents in the south end and other areas of Nanaimo and even Parksville.
“Everybody’s embracing it,” said Tanya Hiltz, who has lived in the south end on and off since she was 18.
Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said the local detachment is in support of the program.
“The residents of south area of Nanaimo have finally organized themselves and have said they’ve had enough,” he said. “They’re banding together like other people have done in Nanaimo and they’re doing it in a constructive, meaningful manner.”
Hiltz said the south end’s problems with drugs have thrived because of low rental costs and because people are afraid to come forward with information, fearing retaliation.
Putting a spotlight on the area should help to reduce those problems.
“People who are involved in criminal activity, they don’t like attention and they like to work in areas where they’re not going to be bothered,” O’Brien said. “It may be more calls for service for us, but that’s why we’re here. We will assist them in anyway we can.”
South End Block Watch will hold a community potluck at Deverill Park on Aug. 17 to celebrate the launch of the program and to gain new members. Particpants are asked to bring along a dish and lawn chairs by 5 p.m., with dinner at 6 p.m.
For more information on the South End Block Watch, please contact 250-591-0024 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on the Block Watch program is available at www.blockwatch.com.