Nanaimo residents afraid to walk in their neighbourhoods at night, RCMP report suggests

Nanaimo residents afraid to walk in their neighbourhoods at night, RCMP report suggests

Safety audits by Nanaimo RCMP in six Nanaimo communities show a majority of people believe crime in the city is on the increase.

It also shows most people are afraid to walk in their neighbourhoods at night.

“The common theme is people are scared. People think crime is on the rise. They believe that it’s not safe to come to downtown,” said Tim McGrath, president of the Nanaimo Neighbourhood Network.

Downtown Nanaimo had the largest percentage of residents who said they feel unsafe walking outside alone at night at 72 per cent.

Among the downtown, residents feeling less safe is Brian Rice.

Just two weeks ago he asked a homeless person making noise late at night outside his Robarts street home to quiet down.

“He came around the corner really fast and he had two sticks in his hands and caught me right here and split my head open so yeah kind of scary,” said Rice, who also says he is a 200-pound man with a martial arts background.

“I can’t imagine what elderly people, people who are a little more vulnerable how they must feel out there because I actually feel unsafe now.”

Nanaimo’s mayor says he’s not surprised by the safety audit results with so many suffering from drug addictions and mental health issues on the streets.

“To some extent some are incorrigible. Until we step up as a province, as a country and deal with that issue in a serious way we’re not going to see dramatic improvements,” said Leonard Krog, who has long advocated for those most severely ill to be committed to a mental health institution.

Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, says the pandemic has increased homelessness. She says her ministry is adding addiction treatment beds, sobering beds, affordable housing and plans for a new type of super supportive housing for those hard to house.

“They tend to get evicted from supportive housing but then they’re still on the street and creating disruption in neighbourhoods. it’s a terrible way to live for them and it’s very hard on neighbours and so we’re going to try and get something piloted as early in this new year as we can,” said Malcolmson, who is also the MLA for the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding.

Malcolmson says she and her colleagues certainly feel the urgency of the situation and say they understand the status quo is not acceptable.

The full safety audits are in this Nanaimo city council agenda.

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Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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