Facing increase in crime, Victoria’s mayor considers banning downtown campers

WatchVictoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she will address the issue of downtown camping when council comes back in September.

Victoria Police’s data measuring crime in the downtown core so far for 2020 shows calls for mischief, weapons, street violence, and break and enters are up.

And many in downtown Victoria point to criminal activity associated with the Centennial Square camp as a big part of the problem

“We certainly think council needs to revisit the issues of 24/7 camping,” said Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

“We’re not believing that it’s actually supportive of the broader community.”

And Victoria’s mayor seems to agree that a downtown encampment, isn’t working.

“I’m beginning to think a prohibition on camping in the core business district is in order,” said Mayor Lisa Helps in a statement to CHEK News.

“That will likely push more people to parks but it will also support the businesses that are already struggling so hard to survive in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”

Helps says she plans to address the issue when council returns in September.

On the flipside, Victoria Police’s statistics show impaired driving and shoplifting are down. But to the Downtown Victoria Business Association, the decrease in shoplifting could actually reflect shop owners’ lack of trust in the system.

“There isn’t really any police follow up and there isn’t necessarily an insurance claim so some of our businesses have just stopped reporting shoplifting because there really isn’t a benefit to that process,” said Bray.

Victoria Police admit, due to strained resources, they’ve had to make some tough decisions.

“We’ve had to put life and limb above property and we’re seeing that in our response times to these calls like shoplifting or break and enters,” said Bowen Osoko, a Victoria police spokesperson.

“They’re not as fast as we would like. And so they’re not as fast as everybody expects. We’re doing our best to respond to them, with the resources we have.”

The Downtown Victoria Business Association is joining Victoria police, calling for more enforcement.

On Friday, Victoria police issued a correction to the crime statistic released on Thursday, saying number of calls for service represent the time period of January 1st to July 31st for each year. The previous release indicated that they were for the full calendar year.


Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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