With 78 tents and counting, the encampment at Saanich’s Regina Park is not going anywhere.

And that is an issue for local neighbours who say the area is changed, according to resident Nick Bishop.

“One of my neighbours found a needle on the corner. So these are kind of, not the kind of things we’re used to seeing in the neighbourhood. By a long shot.”

Residents worry about retaliation for speaking out against the campers.

“The long-term residents in the neighbourhood are a little bit terrified,” Bishop said.

One man who did not want to be identified installed surveillance cameras on his house after the theft of gas from his shed.

“I’ve seen more police in the last three, two and a half months than I’ve seen all my life on this street. No cops come down here. Ever,” he said.

Many moved here because it’s a close-knit working-class neighbourhood.

Another resident, who also did not want to be identified, said he would describe the area differently now.

“Someone described it as ‘hell.’ I think it just feels very invasive, and, someone at the town hall described it as being held hostage in our own neighbourhood,” the resident said.

According to Saanich Police in 2017 from May 1 to July 2, there were 283 calls for service.

In 2018, during the same period, 492 calls came in, a jump of more than 70 percent. And property crime calls are up.

In 2017, Saanich Police received 32 calls from May 1 to July 2 compared to 86 this year.

According to Sgt. Jereme Leslie with the Saanich Police, they now have a designated team of officers who will respond to calls in Regina Park at any time.

“So these officers are specifically focused in on that area. That’s certainly the officers that are dealing with the day-to-day activities in that particular zone of Saanich. It does take away their ability to respond to other calls for service in that zone,” Leslie said.

The increase in crime jumps across the highway to Uptown Mall and surrounding area.

Stolen property from mall businesses has turned up Regina Park. And three weeks ago, the McDonald’s on Saanich Road started closing its restaurant after midnight and the Tim Hortons may follow suit.

 

Mary Griffin