Terrace council has declared that the city’s downtown is in crisis, and has staff organizing a town hall event to discuss issues of crime, homelessness and addiction.
During the June 14, 2021 Terrace council meeting, council unanimously passed a motion to invite provincial prosecutors, provincial cabinet ministers, Northern Health and others to join the event.
“The reality is that council cannot solve these problems in the downtown alone — if that were the case, we would have done so a long time ago,” said Councillor James Cordeiro at the meeting. “I think it’s important for the public and the business community to have an opportunity to voice their concerns.”
Staff are organizing the event, which could include an in-person session in addition to the city’s new online engagement platform EngagementHQ.
Mayor Carol Leclerc said in a City of Terrace media release that calling the situation in the downtown a ‘crisis’ is not an exaggeration, and that other levels of government need to take notice.
“We have been working on these issues for years now without seeing the results that we and the community are looking for,” Leclerc said in the release.
“Council is eager to have this discussion to hear these concerns from the public, help everyone understand where we’re at and what we’ve done so far, and communicate where we need more resources, collaboration, and support.”
The decision by council follows growing calls for a solution to growing anti-social behaviour and crime within the downtown core. Residents have increasingly said they don’t feel safe and businesses are reporting vandalism and theft.
In 2019, more than 100 citizens participated in a public forum to discuss homelessness. City council and staff heard from business owners, people experiencing homelessness, community members and social organizations over the course of two hours. At the time, Leclerc reiterated hers and then-chief administrative officer Heather Avison’s commitment to press the issue in Victoria this fall and lobby for financial support.
The city created the Terrace Situation Table in 2020, which includes representatives from the RCMP, Northern Health, and others in an attempt to connect vulnerable people to services.
Council has looked at other ways to confront issues of crime and anti-social behaviour in the downtown. Last summer council looked into starting a court watch committee, but ultimately did not pursue that idea.
This year, the city removed public benches in the 4600 block of Lakelse Ave. to discourage loitering, has applied for grants to install a public washroom and Coun. Sean Bujtas advocated for a regional lobby group to push the provincial government for more support.
Also, the city decided in May to spend $54,000 on private security in the downtown between June and Sept. to supplement the existing bylaw officer presence.
According to the city, the town hall event will take place sometime this summer and more information will be made available at a later date.