Nanaimo RCMP say they have received more than 2,000 calls related to activity around two temporary supportive housing complex in three months.
Between Nov. 20, 2018 and Jan. 24, 2019 there were 2,866 calls for service in the immediate areas near the supportive housing complexes on Terminal Avenue and Labieux Road, according to a data provided by the Nanaimo RCMP at a city committee of the whole meeting yesterday.
According to the Nanaimo RCMP, during that time period there were 1,437 calls for service in the Labieux Road area and 1,429 calls for the Terminal Avenue area, representing more than a 50 per cent increase in both areas compared to the same time frame in 2017-18.
B.C. Housing opened temporary supportive housing units at 250 Terminal Ave. and 2020 Labieux Rd. in late November as part of an effort to house people living at the now-closed Discontent City in downtown Nanaimo.
The immediate area around the Labieux Road site includes Beban Park, Merle Logan Field, Nanaimo Golf Club, Stevie Smith Bike Park, Wilfert Road, McGarrigle Road, as well as portions of Dorman Road and McCullough Road. The Terminal Avenue area is considered by the police to be anything within roughly one kilometre of the supportive housing site.
The data was presented to city councillors by Nanaimo RCMP during a special committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 11.
Supt. Cameron Miller of the Nanaimo RCMP told councillors that the Labieux Road figures represent a 60 per cent increase in calls for service over the same time period a year earlier while the Terminal Avenue figure represents a 53 per cent increase over the same period. He also stressed that calls for service does not necessarily mean a crime occurred.
“This could be somebody reporting a missing child, this could be somebody reporting an assault, it could be a break-in, it could be found property,” he said.
A detailed breakdown of what types of calls were received was not available because crime data analysts are currently unavailable according to Miller. He said crime is a “highly complex phenomenon” with no one cause.
“What we do know is that all crimes are committed for financial gain with the exception of crimes of passion,” he said.
One reason for the spike could be due to the awareness of Block Watch and Neighbourhood Watch programs.
Miller said with Block Watch communities established, more people are reporting suspicious activity than in years past, adding that there are around 11,000 people participating in a Block Watch program in Nanaimo.
“We are encouraging people to call in. So, people may now call in and say they see somebody walking down the road pushing a shopping cart. Is that a crime? No. But this would not have been reported a year or two ago. So, we are seeing more things like that.”
However, Miller said while the police support neighbours watching out for each other, they don’t support residents taking matters into their own hands.
“What we will not accept or tolerate is vigilantism,” he said.
Monday’s meeting also saw city staffers present information regarding the two supportive housing units in the city, homelessness and affordability.
Lisa Bhopalsingh, the city’s manager of community and cultural planning, said the temporary supportive housing sites have experienced challenges, especially since both weren’t even complete when residents moved in.
“I think one site was using a barbecue to prepare meals up until about a week ago,” she said, adding that construction is now complete on both sites.
Bhopalsingh said city parks staff have been conducting increased safety monitoring of parks throughout Nanaimo and that B.C. Housing is planning on creating an outreach response program for the city.
“The idea is to having an outreach team where, as people are identified around the sites and throughout our neighbourhoods and parks, that an outreach team would be there to help support the homeless and provide them with resources,” she said.
B.C. Housing is also working on developing a protocol agreement with the Nanaimo RCMP that will allow all agencies the ability to “share information” in a proactive way, according to Bhopalsingh.
Karin Kronstal, social planner with the city, said there are still serious concerns around affordability of housing in Nanaimo, as rental prices in the city remain high and are putting pressure on lower-income individuals. She said there were more purpose-built rental units available in 1995 than there are today in the city, adding that Nanaimo’s vacancy rate is 2.4 per cent.
“Although we’ve seen a lot of rental units being built in the last few years … we’re not back up [to 1995 levels],” she said.
Kronstal also said the median cost of a home in Nanaimo was $326,000 in 2014 and was $541,000 as of January. She said that’s a concern because wages haven’t risen anywhere close to the same rate and likely won’t even though housing prices are likely to climb over the next couple of years.
“That is an incredible increase on the average cost of a house,” she said.
In the end, Nanaimo city councillors made no formal motions regarding the presentations, voting in favour of receiving the information.