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Environmental design suggested to curb social issues

The City of Nanaimo is recommending environmental design to combat drug and sex trade problems in a Nob Hill-area neighbourhood.

Concerned residents near Nicol Street, who have complained about drug use, needles, and prostitutes and clients frequenting their alley, held a walk-through with city staff Saturday. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design was discussed as a potential solution, something suggested in a 2005 city-commissioned report and used in city parks and building design.

Fences, such as chain link, and trimmed grass and foliage are encouraged, as they open sight lines and provide less cover for drug abusers to hide and discard paraphernalia and for prostitutes and customers to do business.

John Horn, City of Nanaimo social planner, was on-hand and said neighbourhoods that work together are strong and are able to deter and diminish the illegal occurrences.

“If you walk down the alley and you believe everyone in the alley has a lot of capability and they’re acting in a guardian capacity, then that sends the signal that this is not the place to conduct illicit activity ... that’s the signal that has to be sent and that’s what changes things,” Horn said.

Resident Sara Barton is already utilizing environmental design elements and said the lane – now nicknamed Wisteria Lane after plants in her yard – used to be scary.

While there are still some issues, she said residents are working together to take it back.

“Myself personally, I’ve extended my fence in the backyard, shut it down,” Barton said. “I used to have a lot of walk-through traffic going to 7-Eleven and such through my yard. I planted bushes in the front. It just pretties it up and steers people away in a nice, peaceful way.”

There are less people hanging out in her back alley, she said adding, it is a good neighbourhood with a lot of good people.

Tanya Hiltz, another concerned resident and one of those spear-heading the action, echoed Barton’s sentiments.

“We’re going for lines, so right now you turn around and look down the laneway and you can see where the blind spots are,” Hiltz said.

“We’ll work with [Horn] and clean them up. [We’ll put] peepholes, if we can, in the fences, continuously cutting the grass, planting some wisteria ... just bring the lane back because it’s been let go too long.”

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