VicPD getting thousands of calls to deal with encampments: Councillor

VicPD getting thousands of calls to deal with encampments: Councillor

Eighteen years ago, Heather Doyle and her two children moved into a housing co-op on Russell Street in Vic West.

It’s a quiet street, but it wasn’t always this way.

“I’ve lost count of how many times I had to call the police,” Doyle said.

During the pandemic, a shelter opened up down the street from Doyle’s home. It stayed open for two years, closing in April, but in that time, Doyle was constantly calling police for help.

“These were pretty serious incidents. Like threats of violence, intimidation, someone telling me they knew where I lived and to watch out,” Doyle said.

“Someone threatening me with a knife. Violent fights in the street, open drug use. Screaming and carrying on in the middle of the night.”

Data compiled by Victoria Police and released by city councillor Stephen Hammond breaks down how often officers were called to specific areas in Victoria over the last three years, primarily where people shelter.

“We’ve already heard from people all over the city that when you have encampments, and when you have facilities in which they don’t have proper supports for people inside and outside, it can turn into a living hell for people,” Hammond said.

More than 37,000 calls to VicPD were made in three years. That covers 22 locations around town, and topping the list was Our Place on Pandora Avenue. VicPD were called here more than 8,000 times in that stretch.

The shelter down from Doyle’s place garnered around 500 calls to police.

But at Our Place, a police presence is a positive, according to communications director Grant McKenzie.

“The police calls are actually a positive thing, not a negative. We’re not calling for criminal matters. We’re actually calling for health matters,” McKenzie said.

“When we make a phone call because someone is having an overdose, or someone is having a mental health crisis, or we’re just concerned about their welfare.”

The data has been kept private for months, but Hammond released the numbers late Tuesday night to show the public how many police calls are being made to areas like Pandora.

He believes the numbers tell the story — that police need help and better resources must be directed to support the unhoused.

Doyle agrees.

“We would love to have great neighbours in their neighbourhood. And we don’t have an issue across the street. We just want to feel safe in our neighbourhood,” Doyle said.

Hammond hopes the data will be enough to get his colleagues on board and the province’s attention. Because 37,000 calls to VicPD over three years is not sustainable.

And he believes everyone, including the unhoused, deserves better.

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Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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