The More Victoria Changes, the More It Stays the Same...
Posted 19 September 2023 - 10:15 PM
Posted 19 September 2023 - 10:16 PM
More news items about police foot patrols. As with any other persistent issue, we see some of the same lingo and catchphrases still being used even as the years turn into decades:
July 26, 1986
Downtown firms willing to pay to fight riff-raff
Downtown businessmen are willing to pay extra taxes for a guarantee foot-patrolmen will be hired to clean the riff-raff off city streets, says a Victoria businessman.
"It is time we took our downtown back from this small segment of society," said Michael Williams.
Williams has warned city council that the situation is out of hand with unruly drunks screaming obscenities or vomiting in the street and holding the downtown core to ransom.
"I, as a businessman would be willing to have taxes increase on the condition that the taxes go to pay for 10 more officers on foot patrol day and night in the city," he said. "It's the crude lout-type element who have been allowed to get away with this nonsense. The police are driving around in cruisers and they are stretched to the limit."
Mayor Gretchen Brewin said she will consider the suggestion, but having 10 officers purely for downtown work runs contrary to how policing is organized, she said... "It would be difficult to have just a downtown force at the beck and call of downtown businesses," she said.
"I think foot patrols would be a step in the right direction because they would concentrate on the trouble spots," said Eaton's Vancouver Island general manager Reg Hind, whose store is regularly hit by vandalism. "I think we would be interested in looking at an additional charge for increased police coverage."
Marks & Spencer manager Jack Newton said he would welcome a task force to look into the problem and the cost of extra foot patrols.
The stigma of foot patrols being the lowliest police job must be corrected, Newton said. (aastra says: there's that magic word "stigma", all the way back in 1986) "Even if they park their cruiser and walk around the block for five minutes it would be good."
Michael Williams, a proponent of downtown revitalization, said council should forget revitalization and tourism until the street scene is cleaned up.
"We must ask ourselves as police and citizens if we have lost control of certain parts of the downtown area," he said. "The blame is on us. It's time to take it back in hand."
October 22, 1991
Police meet challenge of violence in the community
On the surface, Victoria seems like a gentle place, but in the last ten years, our police officers have been faced with increasing violence in almost every aspect of their job, says Inspector Brian Hayes, a 27-year veteran with the Victoria Police Department.
Oh, our city is a long way from being another crime-ridden Detroit (aastra says: aren't most places a long way from being the worst place?), but, as is so many growing cities, the trend towards increased violence is clearly there.
"We see it especially in young offenders, aged 15 and 16. These young people are committing muggings, especially in areas such as Beacon Hill Park and Dallas Road, and robberies which include pistol whipping store owners,"
"The increase in drug use and drug related crimes, also brings with it an increasing amount of violence in the drug world -- a lot of it unreported," he says. "A lot of the violence in the residential areas is drug related -- there are stabbings and beatings of people connected with the drug industry.
"With robberies in general there is a greater incidence of weapons displayed or actually fired, not only at banks, but at corner stores -- though no one has recently been injured,"
And part of that on-going pattern or trend toward violence includes homes being broken into for the purpose of sexual assault, often with the threat of a weapon or just physical violence,"
Then, of course, there are an increasing number of dust-ups after the bars let out and fights at after hours house parties, says Hayes.
Today's police officers clearly have their hands full.
Although they don't have a lot of violence directed specifically at them, they can be injured when trying to keep offenders under control, says Hayes "and they face many more situations which involved weapons, especially knives."
To meet the challenge of this increasing violence, the Victoria Police now send two-man cars or a back-up to a situation where they would have sent a one-man car 10 years ago...
And the department no longer sends out a lone officer on foot patrol on the night shift.
"People should also be aware that they may put themselves in a position they can't deal with if they walk in an area where people are being attacked, such as the Dallas Road footpath at night. They should use some common sense in avoiding situations where a crime can be committed against them..."
"The public can also take the lead in demanding that there be greater deterrents against violent crime by lobbying politicians," says Hayes. "The judicial system is not as supportive as we would like to see with regard to sentencing. Generally, the penalties are minor. There are no real deterrents to violence."
July 26, 1994
Not Only Athletes Come To Victoria for Gold
(The Business Voice - The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce)
...Victoria Police Inspector Douglas Potentier says that deployment plans are in place to serve both Victoria citizens and handle Commonwealth Games needs.
Plans include these measures:
- All police officers will be in Victoria -- no holidays, no training programs.
- Community police officers will offer extra foot patrol downtown
(aastra wonders: why would extra foot patrols be necessary/beneficial during the Commonwealth Games but not at other times?)
- Street crime bike and plain clothes units will work late at night in addition to regular complements of officers
- The police's downtown command post will use fibre optics to monitor the Inner Harbour through closed circuit TV. With this technology, watchers can pan the area and zoom in on potential trouble spots
- Extra shifts will be on duty
- Finally, the extra police will help to control street people incidents in the downtown core.
Tuesday, August 5, 1997
Pounding the Downtown Beat
Just a quiet Friday night tending junkies, boozers and brawlers
The foot patrol is an experiment for the Victoria Police. McGregor and three other officers from the Street Crime Unit are teamed up with four other officers to walk the downtown for the summer. (aastra says: that's been a helluva long experiment if we're still talking about it in the summer of 2023 as if it were some innovative new thing)
McGregor and Tolmie take a zig-zag path. "When you walk the beat you find all the nooks and crannies and hiding places around downtown," McGregor says.
In his eight years as a member of the Victoria Police, McGregor says he's arrested some of the same people over and over again. He has also gained a good idea of who the players are in Victoria's cocaine and sex trade -- including people he believes were involved in several recent shootings on Victoria's streets.
"It's mostly criminals shooting criminals," says Tolmie.
Edited by aastra, 19 September 2023 - 10:36 PM.
Posted 19 September 2023 - 10:33 PM
Let the record show there were successful experiments with summer police foot patrols in 1997, 2007, and 2023. Also let the record show we don't seem to be able to keep our story straight about when the street issues started to become serious. No matter what year we happen to be living in, we always want to claim the problems only became severe just a few years earlier.
September 1, 2007
'Human Misery' In Downtown Streets Scaring Tourists Away
There is something wrong in this city. Blessed with natural good looks and a charming, historic downtown core, B.C.'s political and tourist capital is losing appeal, nonetheless. It's no secret why; local officials don't try to deny it. Junkies, panhandlers and drunks are growing in number and becoming more brazen. They are scaring people.
"The state of downtown is our number one issue," says Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe, sitting in an outdoor cafe. "It's the same for tourists and for those of us who live here. It's the fear of coming downtown."
Most Canadians probably still imagine Victoria as a quaint seaside community, tweedy, mild of climate, with a distinct British accent. It's still all of that. But there is more talk of "junkies" and "fear" and "disorder," from the Mayor on down, and, correspondingly, more worry about the city's reputation as a great place to live and to visit.
A senior provincial bureaucrat -- B.C.'s Auditor-General, no less -- is startled when addicts start injecting drugs outside his downtown office. In February, he fires off a letter to city council, demanding action, more police patrols.
Kenneth Kelly is general manager of the Downtown Victoria Business Association; his office faces directly on to Centennial Square. Mr. Kelly is an enthusiastic civic booster and points to many improvements the city has seen in recent years. Even so, tourism, the city's lifeblood, is flat.
He acknowledges that Victoria needs to clean up its act. "There are some days when I look out at the square and I think, 'This place is a zoo,' " Mr. Kelly says. "We should not be tolerating this."
Yet it is tolerated, to some degree. "What are the options?" shrugs Mayor Lowe. Yes, he would like to see more police officers on Victoria's streets. A summer pilot program that diverted more officers to downtown foot patrol was a success. But there's no money for more hires. And the Mayor thinks it important to "strike a balance" between law and order and respect for individual rights and freedoms.
"I don't think that grabbing people and throwing them in jail to rot is much of a solution," he says.
Neither, he adds, is ignoring the growing drug problem. "Letting people overdose in the streets? I don't think that's what we want, either."
Mr. Lowe has struck a task force to identify ways to deal with public disorder in the downtown core. An interim report is expected next month. He concedes it will take more months, perhaps years, to address the problem -- and, he expects, millions of dollars for more social housing, treatment and other forms of assistance to drug addicts, the mentally ill and the homeless.
He thinks Vancouver may be on the right track, offering such services as a supervised injection site where injection drug users can fix in a controlled, "safer" environment rather than in streets and alleyways. Mr. Lowe wants to open a "supervised consumption site" where users can both inject and smoke drugs.
But the Vancouver approach -- or experiment -- can't be called a success. That city's drug problem is as bad as ever. Some say it is getting worse, thanks in part to the increasing availability of user services, most of which are concentrated in the Downtown Eastside, where thousands of addicts live.
The drug scene in Victoria is not so concentrated; rather, it is spread throughout the downtown core, which is small and easily traversed on foot. There is no desire to even attempt to contain drug use in one area. "I don't want to give any one zone over to the junkies," the Mayor says.
So "the cage" on Store Street, where Mr. Gray smokes crack, is four blocks west of a busy needle exchange on Cormorant Street, which is nine blocks north of a drug haunt and former homeless encampment near Beacon Hill Park, which is a few blocks southeast of the Inner Harbour, where panhandlers roam, which is a couple of blocks from Douglas Street, where there is just about everything.
There is virtually no place free from street crime and public disorder in downtown Victoria. No one knows this any better than Inspector John Ducker, a 28-year veteran of the Victoria Police Department. He leads the Focused Enforcement Team, a group of 25 officers that patrols the downtown area. Half of the officers walk the beat at any given time.
His men and women are overworked; Victoria police officers already have one of the highest annual caseloads in the province, at about 90 each. The national average for municipal police officers is about half that.
"Twenty years ago, we were dealing with drunks hanging around the bus depot," Insp. Ducker says. "Now it's hundreds of drug users."
He does not have any proven answers. "Things have definitely become worse in just the last two years. Open, intravenous drug use is now common. It's upsetting to people who have lived here all their lives, and to people who come to visit because it's a nice place."
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