The West Shore RCMP chief has issued a statement regarding the public safety concerns regarding the homeless campers at Goldstream Provincial Park.
“We recognize that past tent city camps in the region have resulted in an escalation in crime rates and calls for service from the public. I am committed to keeping the West Shore area safe and will increase patrols and police presence to ensure that all citizens are protected,” Insp. Todd Preston, officer in charge of the West Shore RCMP, said on Friday.
As part of the statement, West Shore RCMP has also released a list of the calls they received since Sept. 19, when approximately 30 homeless campers moved into the campground at the park. The group had previously been evicted from Regina Park after five months. They were also removed from provincial land near Highway 17 after spending just under a week there.
According to police, only one person was arrested between Sept. 19 to Sept. 21. On Sept. 19, the West Shore Bike Unit arrested a woman who was part of the homeless campers in Goldstream Provincial Park for an outstanding arrest warrant. She was turned over to Saanich police for a court appearance.
The statement noted provincial park rangers had seen an increase in theft reports at the park.
But the statement also listed complaints from neighbours and other campers at the park, including one person who asked that police provide extra patrols as “they were concerned for the safety of their children going back and forth to school and possibly coming into contact with the homeless campers.” There was no specific incident related to that complaint.
The homeless campers’ move to the campground at Goldstream Provincial Park led to a tumultuous day on Thursday. The group had been told Wednesday night they had until 11 a.m. the next day to leave and the campground would be closed indefinitely. Then a provincial government statement said they would get a 24-hour extension. Finally, by Thursday afternoon, Environment Ministry spokesman David Karn confirmed there is no deadline for homeless campers to leave the Goldstream Provincial Park campground.
West Shore RCMP said they have told Chrissy Brett, organizer of the tent cities in Saanich, that open drug use and negligence by having open needles around a campground was not acceptable as children or pets could be in the area. RCMP members had found several needles strewn around the heavily-wooded site.
Police said Brett agreed but also said her campers had picked up all the needles the night before. However, she also said she would have others clean up the site and pick up all the remaining open and unopened needles they could find.
The campground has been closed to the public and anyone with reservations will get a refund. The rest of the park is open.
RCMP will investigate all criminal matters and complaints at the group camp as per normal procedures. BC Parks staff will enforce park rules and regulations.