Opinion

Drunks, vandalism degrade our town

DRUNKS sleeping on sidewalks or in doorways. Store windows broken by vandals or thieves. Shop lifting. Domestic violence. Runaway teens.

Sounds like  Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, doesn’t it?

Methamphetamine labs. Home invaders brandishing machetes, baseball bats, and 2x4s. Thefts of anything that can be hauled off from boats and ATVs to pickups and motorcycles.

A lot like what goes on in Surrey, right?

Supermarket windows held together with criss-crossed plumbers’ tape until glass can be replaced. Making do with plywood in the lower half of the public library’s front door.

Reminiscent of Granville Street after last year’s final hockey game in June, eh?

But it’s all happening right here in Terrace.

There was a time when Thornhill motorists travelling  on Walker Street after dark might dodge a kitten. Now they have to steer clear of drunks passed out in the middle of the pavement. Soon Nechako Northcoast will be posting signs, “Watch for Potted Souls”.

Drunks take up much of the daily report of RCMP activity. For instance of 26 people lodged in police cells recently, 16 were there for intoxication. Every night police play taxi and give drunks or teen runaways a ride home. Granted, no taxi driver would be keen to share his cab with a drunk.

A taxi ride might cost $10. A squad car driven by an RCMP officer while shepherding some drunk to a safe address is far more expensive, judging by the salaries posted on the RCMP’s website.

The website notes,  “When you successfully complete the Cadet Training Program and have been offered employment, you will be hired as a Regular Member Constable at an annual salary of $48,946. Normally, within 36 months of service, your annual salary will have increased incrementally to $79,308.”

I’m betting if someone in city hall were to sit down with a calculator, add up the hours and number of calls officers respond to in an average month, at the rate of salary those personnel would be paid, politicians – both in Terrace and in Victoria – might realize funding a comprehensive detoxification plan could be money well spent. Maybe even money saved. Not to mention the side benefits of better health at less expense for drunks, their return to productive earnings, and restoration of families.

The savings to store owners in broken store windows alone could be impressive. Think of their repair costs, rising insurance rates, and the decrepit look of their establishments should visitors arrive in town to witness what we have learned to live with. All the advertising on TV and radio won’t erase the poor impression fixed in the minds of locals and tourists.

Usually while checking out my purchases a cashier will make pleasant small talk about the weather, upcoming holidays, the approach of gardening season.

Last Friday my cashier was a member of management subbing for a regular staffer who had taken a coffee break. We’d never met before. Noticing my name on my Air Miles card, he asked, “Are you the one who writes a column?”

I admitted I was. “Any beefs?”

He did indeed have a beef: the deplorable state of Terrace due to the prevalence of drunks, vandalism, shoplifting and unruly public behaviour. Clearly disillusioned he summed up, “This is our community.”

Miraculously, despite lawbreakers blighting the town, the new owners of the Skeena Mall are set to undertake a four-month, million dollar renovation with prospects of renting spaces to new businesses. But how long will their improvements  be able to counter the degradation imposed by drunks, vandals and shoplifters?

 

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