Neighbours call for shut down of Topaz homeless camp as Victoria police see jump in crime

Neighbours call for shut down of Topaz homeless camp as Victoria police see jump in crime
WatchVictoria police say crime has jumped in the area of Topaz Park since a temporary homeless camp was set up a month ago. And a doctor who has worked at the site says it's at risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. April Lawrence reports.

Victoria police were back at the temporary homeless camp at Topaz Park Monday where they say there’s been a significant jump in crime and violence since a temporary homeless shelter was opened a month ago.

“Break and enter, arsons, thefts, mischief, stolen property,” said Victoria Police Chief Del Manak.

“We’ve got people that are peering inside people’s homes, people that have lost anything that isn’t bolted down or locked away has gone missing or been stolen,” he said.

Early Saturday morning Manak says officers were called after a man at the park pulled a handgun during a dispute.

Rabbi Meir Kaplan, with Chabad Centre of Vancouver Island, says his neighbourhood is living in fear.

“Since the tent city moved to here we had every single night, people trying to break into the building, stealing things from the property and just roaming around in our private property, every single night,” Kaplan said.

But crime isn’t the only concern being voiced about the camp, which is at capacity with 200 tents

A doctor who has been helping out there says he has serious concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19.

“I worry that we have set up the conditions for an outbreak here at this camp, and we’re not ready for it yet,” said Dr. Ami Brosseau.

Brosseau says there still isn’t adequate medical services on site and outreach nurses have voiced concerns about their own safety.

“I think we need to seek assistance from an outside agency either Doctors Without Borders or Red Cross, agencies that have experience in managing camps like this,” he said.

VicPD is asking for more officers to help patrol the area and neighbours say it’s time to find indoor locations and shut the camp down.

“I want to see an immediate exit plan, we want to have a date for when this tent city will be dismantled,” said Kaplan.

READ MORE: ‘Fraught with challenges’: Victoria motel manager voices concerns after housing homeless

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps says she is also concerned and is pushing the province to move more people inside.

So far 195 motel rooms in the city have been secured but BC Housing says it is actively working to find more indoor locations to move people into.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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