A chorus of Langford residents are calling on city council to deal with the open drug use and crime connected to sheltering in parks in their city.
“I live across the street from Danbrook Park. The police are there constantly. If it’s not the police, it’s the ambulance,” said Barb Prittie Monday at a Langford city council meeting.
“It is getting to the place where I feel safer here than I do in my own home,” she said.
“My husband had to disconnect the plugs we have on our house because they were charging their bikes. I should not have to deal with that.”
Downtown Langford’s Danbrook Park has become the focal point of growing tensions around sheltering in parks.
On Monday, residents gave city council an earful about a homeless camp that had been growing there for what they say is six months.
“My 11-year-old doesn’t feel safe to walk to her middle school,” Maria Csizmazia told Langford council Monday.
“I feel personally we’ve taken Langford from a penthoused to an outhouse,” said Art Crusell.
West Shore RCMP say they’ve been observing an overall increase in the unhoused population in the region, with Danbrook One as the centre point.
“We have seen a steady increase since the beginning of the year,” Cpl. Nancy Saggar told CHEK News in a statement.
“One prominent location is Danbrook Park in Langford. Our Frontline and Bike Patrol Officers routinely work with Langford City Bylaw Officers to attend Danbrook Park to ensure compliance with bylaws.”
From May to Aug. 10, West Shore RCMP say they’ve been called to Danbrook Park, designated by the city as a location where people can shelter overnight, 78 times.
Langford city council assured residents during the meeting that they’re listening.
“This is top of mind for council and we are taking this very seriously,” said Mary Wagner, city councillor.
During Monday’s meeting, council voted unanimously on what Westshore RCMP’s priorities should be for this year.
Topping their list is mental health, with the caveat from councillors, that policing their way out of a problem that’s growing regionally, provincially, and even right across North America isn’t possible.
“While these West Shore RCMP priorities may help may assist with enforcement, there is much more to this story,” said Keith Yacucha, Langford city councillor.
“There is much more we have to look at doing beyond this.”
As of Wednesday, Danbrook Park had been cleared and cleaned up by city staff. There is no word on where the campers were pushed or if they plan to come back.