The City of Nanaimo’s public safety committee thinks the community policing office can still serve a purpose downtown.
During a meeting Feb. 1, the committee recommended that the office, located on 18 Victoria Cres., continue to operate. The committee also recommended that the office provide a broader range of services to address numerous issues in the downtown core. However, the scope of services provided and operational details were not determined by the committee.
The topic was raised after the city’s core services review recommended relocating the office to the Service and Resource Centre located across from city hall.
Karen Fry, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire chief and acting director of public safety, told the committee that having a bunch of bylaw officers locked inside the community office isn’t a good idea.
“It is only a block away for staff to get down there and bylaw officers themselves are out on the street, they’re not stationed there,” she said.
The thought of the office closing raised alarm bells for some downtown business owners and residents, who expressed their concerns about the homeless and drug problems that continue to plague the downtown.
Kevan Shaw, president of the Victoria Crescent Association, said the mere thought of closing the office down was crazy and that the situation downtown is “anarchy” and out of control.
“Downtown is not safe for the property owners, the businesses, the residents, no wonder shoppers won’t come when they’re getting overrun by those who harm themselves,” he said.
Shaw said something needs to be done to not only protect business owners, but downtown employees, residents and shoppers as well.
“We need to do something. We need daily cleaning of our sidewalks, our parks, China Steps, that’s just basic,” he said. “More enforcement, more outreach, to get those people, who obviously could not themselves, into care or set up some institutions … or we throw them behind bars, we have to protect the good people out here.”
Dave Frost, manager of A&W in downtown, said he’s been working there for eight years and has seen it all when it comes to the problems in the area.
“I’ve taken machetes away from people, I’ve taken tire irons away … that’s not my job,” he said. “If anybody touches me, no big deal, if I touch them, I end up in jail.”
Frost said while he can take care of himself, he’s concerned about the safety of his staff, explaining that they’re younger and female. He said he realizes the RCMP cannot be there all the time, but would like to see an increase in police officers downtown, adding that he is concerned that something deadly could take place in his restaurant.
“It is only a matter of time before there is going to be a murder in the A&W,” he said. “I am amazed it hasn’t happened yet. When I walk over to them they have to leave, I am taking my life in my hands and that should not be how you work in downtown Nanaimo.”
Nanaimo RCMP Supt. Cameron Miller, speaking to city councillors Monday, advised that, “regardless of the council’s decision on the CPSO, the RCMP cannot install full-time officers there at this time. That’s due to security of the building.”
The committee’s recommendation will come before city council.