Surveillance yes, but what about detox and housing?

Here we go again. Council is casting about for ways to make downtown Terrace safer and more attractive to citizens and visitors not only during daylight hours but in the evening. This time council is considering “installation of video surveillance cameras at an estimated cost of $10,000 per camera which includes equipment and installation. Lighting and the area to be surveyed would also impact the costs.”

My visits to Terrace rarely take longer than two hours but that’s time enough to witness the loitering problem firsthand as I walk from Safeway to the library and on to the Medical Building. Brolly Square, with its benches and nearby concrete curbs, is seldom without a knot of inebriated, hollering, even puking adults with time on their hands. It’s rare someone isn’t standing on one corner of the Lakelse/Emerson intersection shouting to someone kittycorner by the liquor store.

Once I was almost run into by a middle aged drunk falling off his bicycle as he exited the alley besides Spotless Cleaners. He sprawled, hard, on the concrete. His companion made no move to help him up. When I asked if he was okay, he seemed stunned, limped closer to shake my hand in thanks, and wished me well.

To reach the library I walk wide of the bandstand which invariably has a half dozen or more adults sitting aimlessly chatting, maybe pushing or shoving each other. Once I was asked for spare change. Since then I walk even farther from the concrete ledge.

I’ve witnessed a man and woman cursing at each other from opposite sides of the street while one pushes a stroller. All behaviour outside of my upbringing.

RCMP reported that in just under a year, Jan l, 2017 to Nov. 27, 2017, they received 158 calls for service to George Little Park, including 13 assault-related, 59 related to disturbance and intoxication.

In Brolly Square, police had 83 calls for service in the same time period, mostly disturbances and intoxication. Officers pour out more liquor than bartenders on the year’s busiest pub night.

Yet according to the April, 2017 survey, Terrace had only 63 homeless. Forty-six were Aboriginal. Six of the 46 were from Prince George, 7 from New Aiyansh, 5 from Prince Rupert. All the rest but two came from various areas in B.C.

Thirty identified as addicted, 11 as suffering from mental illness.

These respondents had been homeless anywhere from two months to 37 years for one person, with many having been homeless two to four years.

And all that while the city has sought to cope by felling perimeter trees and shrubs around George Little Park, removing shielding shrubbery close to the library, and having RCMP patrol both the library park and Brolly Square any time they are in the vicinity or passing by. (Council has been advised to improve lighting generally but has not done so.)

Despite those measures, parents are hesitant to let their children play in the splash park for fear of harassment and broken liquor bottles.

Customers are skittish about shopping at stores near Brolly Square and staff take special measures to be safe if they leave the store to make a bank deposit or to deliver purchases to a customer’s home.

Video surveillance will shoo the loiterers along but won’t cure the underlying problem – homeless drunks aimlessly congregating where their presence intimidates citizens, discourages shoppers, and presents an unsavoury welcome to tourists. The cure is detox centers and housing.

Editors note: During the Christmas holidays Through Bifocals did not appear in its regular weekly spot, to the alarm of some readers. Rest assured, the column is still slated to run every week.

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