Nanaimo city council will invest in tackling safety and social issues downtown.
Nanaimo city council agreed at its meeting last week to a $45,000 budget for more security and an urban cleanup program that will see litter and discarded syringes picked up. It will also roll out other short-term responses like needle drop boxes and co-ordination by bylaws, RCMP and social planning response over the summer months while the city’s public safety committee finds medium- and-long-term solutions to address the different issues.
About a dozen people spoke at a public hearing in May about a rezoning bylaw that would allow a temporary supervised drug consumption site on Wesley Street to become a permanent location for the service and nearly all were opposed, arguing crime and other problems stemming from drug use are already increasingly visible in the neighbourhood. Council defeated the rezoning and instead agreed on four short-term measures to address issues downtown, according to a city report, which also says there are emerging issues in the community, most in evidence downtown, that include an increased homeless population, public intoxication and substance use and anti-social activity.
Last Monday, several people who work in the Victoria Crescent area shared experiences around security and safety, like Blair Gjevre, operations manager of Mid-Island Co-op, who said the station speaks to police once or twice a week on average to remove people from the site, and has implemented measures such as no longer offering 24-hour service and adding extra security cameras and lighting. Nanaimo RCMP Supt. Cameron Miller was at the council meeting to talk about this year’s policing priorities and Gjevre said he was encouraged by the talk about prevention and community outreach because what he thinks is needed is in the preventative area.
Coun. Ian Thorpe, also chairman of the public safety committee, commended staff and called it a quick response to concerns identified May 29.
“We may well find down the road that we’ll need to tweak our budget or our approach to this program in different facets but I think this is a quick response and a good first step in responding,” he said.
-files from Greg Sakaki