Photo of Courtenay City Hall. (Taken by Troy Landreville, MyComoxValleyNow.com Staff.)
Around 80 percent of businesses say they feel uncomfortable with people under the influence in downtown Courtenay.
A survey sent out by the city last month received 92 anonymous responses from the business community.
The survey had ten questions including one asking if staff had been harassed or felt uncomfortable walking to their vehicles after work. More than 70 per cent said they did.
On top of that, 60 per cent of businesses said they had to call the RCMP as a result of some kind of incident near their storefronts. Many also said they had to call the police more than one time.
One business explained a scenario where they were put on hold while contacting the police and hung up because they did not want to wait.
“I have chased away drug users from my parking lot. I have called the ambulance and helped keep stable over-dosed druggies in the back alley. I chase (the same people) away from my store daily. I have called and sat on hold with the RCMP – and have had to hang up several times.”
When asked if they had to reduce hours due to illegal activity, 91.3 per cent said no but say despite not changing their hours, they had to alter their protocols for people leaving work.
One business said they had to introduce a ‘buddy system’ to make sure employees got home safely.
“Walking to and from work has become a huge issue for us. Our staff has had automobile windows smashed, tires stolen, we’ve been heckled, yelled yet, witnessed drug dealing, and public sex acts and urination. These are not isolated incidents and happen on a regular basis. Some at least once per week. Drug dealers are out often doing their business around the library and some can be very rude and aggressive. We are open till 9 pm on Fridays and now have to use a buddy system for all our staff leaving to go to their vehicles. I just had a sales rep from Vancouver observe that he thought he was seeing what is normally reserved for Vancouver downtown Eastside!”
Another question in the survey asked if customers had voiced concerns to the businesses around safety issues or an increase in crime happening downtown.
Close to 75 per cent said they heard complaints from customers while 26.37 percent said they did not.
When asked if they noticed an increase in urination and/or defecation in the area near storefronts in the last year, a staggering 71 percent said yes.
One of the last questions in the survey asked businesses to describe any incidents that have happened in the area over the past year.
Out of the 92 businesses, 70 left a response. One business owner said they have seen many things happen.
“Swearing at me as I kick them out, lunging motions as tho(sic) they intend to hit me, theft, swearing if I don’t give money, a woman overdosing on the bench outside the shop, for which I called the police and got very little response until it was long over. Drinks were thrown on the window at night, peeing in the alley, needles in the alley, people strung out in the alley.”
Another said they found someone using drugs right next to their vehicle.
“I’ve had homeless people knock on my car window when I’m trying to leave asking for
money. A woman was shooting up by my car and she was so high I went back into work and waited for 45 minutes until she was gone. There are so many other incidents that have happened when I haven’t been in the shop. We hear at least one screaming fight three times a week.”
We have reached out to both the Comox Valley RCMP and Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells for their responses to the survey.