A couple dozen Nanaimo, B.C., community members gathered Saturday to hold a public safety rally.
Local residents and businesses have serious concerns about violence and crime that is taking place in their neighbourhood.
“Demand action against violence and crime. Restore public safety in our homes, schools, parks, stores, businesses, and neighborhoods,“ an organizer wrote online.
“Join the growing movement to demand action against violence and crime.“
The rally was held at the Country Club Mall, where a few different speakers voiced their concerns.
“It has been shocking to see the slow destruction of our small towns,” said Irene Pady, a concerned resident.
“The government has not been proactive to do something about it. I think the government needs to realize what’s happening in Nanaimo and all of the small cities.”
An organizer, Karen Kuwica, spoke with Global News and said she has talked to lots of different residents and they all echo the same concern — public safety is at risk.
“This is important because in my other volunteer roles as a block watch captain and with the neighborhood association, (I hear) constant concerns about the degrading (public) safety in Nanaimo,“ Kuwica said.
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“The concern is widespread across all demographics in Nanaimo.”
Kuwica said a recent rash of crimes in the area has many people concerned.
“In the last week, we’re just starting a new year and we’ve already had a loss of life from a robbery that became violent, we’ve had fires in vacant buildings, we had a suspected hit-and-run loss of life… the list goes on and on and it’s only been a week,” she said.
A local businessman, Jeff Ross, spoke at the rally. He owns seven businesses between Qualicum Beach and Nanaimo that he’s been running for more than 24 years.
“It’s been increasingly difficult. It has gotten to the point where I can’t sleep. I can sleep only for a couple of hours because I am waiting for an alarm to go off,” he said.
“It has affected every aspect of my life. I have created layers and layers of security but criminals just go right around them. The taxpayers of the city are being victimized over and over again.”
Nanaimo’s mayor, Leonard Krog, addressed the crowd as well.
“There is no question that there are a number of people living in our streets who in any other time would have been in secure, involuntary care getting treatment for mental health, trauma, and addiction issues,” Krog said to the crowd.
“The reality is, the kind of crime that is disturbing you and frustrating businesses arises from people supporting a drug habit.“
Krog went on to say he believes the province needs to bring back involuntary care facilities.
He told the crowd to email and write to provincial officials to expand health services, expand housing services, and to bring back involuntary care facilities.
Krog’s presence drew attention from the crowd as they were heard asking critical questions regarding the city.
Rally attendees said they do not believe the city, the province, and the federal government are doing enough to address public safety concerns.
“There is a long list of things we need to happen fast. We need policy changes, funding requirements, legislation changes… we need widespread changes,” Kuwica said.