Fifth Street in downtown Courtenay is the shopping “hub” of the Comox Valley. It’s away from the big box stores and is very popular with locals and visitors.
There are over 200 businesses and occupancy is currently near 100% so times appear to be good. However, there is another side where illegal activity is on the rise and affecting businesses.
“There are definitely things that happen that make people feel a little uneasy but I think it’s also because we’re a small town that hasn’t had to deal with a lot of mental health issues and we’re seeing an increase in that,” said Jenny Deters, Downtown Courtenay BIA President.
The Downtown Courtenay BIA recently surveyed its members about problems they’ve experienced with crime downtown.
- 80% of the 92 businesses that responded said they or their staff have felt uncomfortable in the last year due to a person under the influence.
- 71% of respondents said they’d noticed an increase in urination or defecation around their business in the last year.
- 74% said they’d been harassed while heading to their car while leaving work but the survey also noted that fewer businesses had to deal with shoplifters in the last year.
“This was specifically targeted at illegal activity, so I mean there are so many great things going on down here as well but we were just trying to figure out what people were experiencing and how we could improve things,” said Catherine Thompson, Downtown Courtenay BIA Executive Director.
“A decrease by the government in mental health support and addiction support has created an increase in crime in many cities and we’re seeing just like everyone else,” said Deters.
The City of Courtenay and Coalition to End Homelessness recently funded a daytime warming centre on 8th Street which has reduced calls to police in the area by 50%, and is being hailed as a positive step for downtown businesses.
“Downtown Courtenay is a very safe place to shop and do business but we know that as any city grows changes happen and we know that we need to keep up with those changes and make improvements along the way,” said Thompson.