A downtown Hamilton task force is looking into launching a crackdown on loitering, spitting, drug dealing, public urination and other nuisance behaviours in the core.
The city’s task force for cleanliness and security in the downtown core is investigating having a police officer and bylaw enforcement officer dedicated to curbing the behaviours after a downtown property owner raised concerns to the committee about the impact on downtown business.
The city’s task force is looking at a three-year pilot project modelled after a similar effort in Barrie, Ont.
'We know it was successful in Barrie, and we have had some issues.' - Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr
The Barrie program comes with a nuisance bylaw forbidding activities such as busking, profanity, picking through the garbage or forming a crowd to block other pedestrians.
It’s just an idea right now, said Coun. Jason Farr of Ward 2, who chairs the task force. City staff and local police will report back on July 14. But he wants to hear from poverty advocates too.
“We know it was successful in Barrie, and we have had some issues,” said Farr. “There is the possibility of doing the same here. What’s imperative is that we hear from all members of the public.”
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The move came after a presentation from Irene Hubar, property manager of The Right House at the corner of King Street East and Hughson.
Hubar said she’s fed up with loitering, spitting and drug dealing outside the historic building.
The upper levels of the building are vacant. Last week, a large international company toured the property and ruled out locating there because it saw the loiterers, she said.
Right House managers have installed security cameras and hired a security guard. Hubar said she has been spit on, and the security guard has been assaulted three times.
“It’s a huge problem,” she told CBC Hamilton. “My concern is that this building is empty and at this rate, it’s going to remain empty. If something doesn’t change, I don’t know.”
Police have ordered some of the bystanders not to be downtown unless it’s for transit, employment or to pick up a prescription, Hubar said. But there’s a bus stop in front of her property, and "some of them are there from 11 to 6 p.m." under the guise of taking the bus.
ACTION team isn't enough
Hamilton Police Service’s ACTION team helps, she said. But “unless we have constant police, it’s not going to change.”
“We need constant police presence and we need some teeth in the dog to get these people out of here.”
Farr hears the concerns, but he doesn’t want to act too fast.
“I want to make sure our task force best understands the other side of the argument on folks’ rights as it relates to gathering on the sidewalk,” he said.
“I want to make sure we include that social side of the argument.”
No 'fouling' of city property
Barrie enacted its nuisance bylaw in 2004 amid complaints from poverty and social justice advocates.
The bylaw prohibits the following:
- Selling any product on city property.
- Anyone “fouling or permitting the fouling” of city property.
- Anyone picking over, interfering with, disturbing, removing or scattering any material placed out for city garbage collection, or placed in a garbage can.
- Giving out products or samples on the sidewalk (excluding charities).
- Blocking, interfering or impeding with the passage of any pedestrian on the sidewalk.
- Riding a bicycle, skateboard or other “muscularly powered vehicle” on any sidewalk in the downtown business improvement area.
- No “boisterous or aggressive behaviour” including wrestling or fighting in the area of the library.
- No profanity or “language which is offensive or is likely to be offensive to another individual” on library property.
- “No person shall deposit snow or cause to be deposited snow on any city property.”
The penalty is up to $5,000.