A week after the community blasted officials about homelessness and addicts at a town hall meeting, there was some obvious action downtown.
Thursday afternoon saw boots hitting the ground as part of the ongoing ‘Visibility and Enforcement Initiative’ launched this spring with downtown patrols.
A team of RCMP officers, security, Bylaw, Fire, and city crews fanned out across Chilliwack. They worked in the pouring rain, hitting hotspots like Five Corners Park, Chilliwack United Church, the courthouse, Salish Park and in the parking lot near the Safeway.
Trash was hauled away and hundreds of needles were gingerly picked up and place in sharps containers.
“I think the neighbours are happy to see these patrols in action,” said Mayor Sharon Gaetz after the patrols. “Chilliwack is a caring community, but people’s patience has really worn thin.”
Parts of the city have been “overrun” with tarps and trash left by those living rough.
“People tell us they want their Chilliwack back,” she said.
Shopping carts were emptied and they’re headed back to stores they were taken from.
“People don’t think of buggies as stolen property, but they are,” said Gaetz.
Some stolen bikes have also now made their way back in the hands of overjoyed owners after serial numbers were called in.
“RCMP officers retrieved quite a few bikes,” Gaetz added. “So if people can identify them, we recommend they phone the police with serial numbers, or go through Garage 529 if they signed up, to report them.”
The visibility initiative falls in line with the ‘Broken Windows’ philosophy of community crime prevention, which suggests that relatively minor urban irritants like broken windows, litter or vandalism should be fixed immediately before they escalate.
“It’s about taking care of the smaller details to make things better for the whole community,” said Gaetz.
It’s from the book, Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities.
What it’s going to take is dedicated provincial ministry to cover homelessness, addictions, and mental health, the mayor said. City officials have been chipping away at the problem for years even though it doesn’t fall under their jurisdiction, mapping out a homelessness action plan with partners, increasing police staffing, and advocating for low-barrier housing.
“Police can’t do it alone. Neighbours can’t do it. We can’t do it alone. We need a ministry that encompasses all of these to reach the people who fall though the cracks.
“So people should continue to write their MP and MLA to get action on this. We will try to get traction with whatever government is in power.”