No overall plan for the core but a focus on policing criminal activity
A downtown property manager is still looking for answers on what the city will do to curb the criminal activity on the steps of her downtown building at King and Hughson Streets.
After two hours of lively debate at the downtown task force meeting Monday, Right House property manager Irene Hubar says she has no official plan from the city to stop what she called a situation that is going from bad to worse.
Police say they are closely monitoring criminal activity and are keeping a focus on the specific addresses.
I would be more satisfied after I hear from (Hamilton Police) on exactly, specifically they’re proposing to do.- Irene Hubar
The city, meanwhile, is caught in a debate between whether the issue is one of poverty and social policy, or simple criminal behaviour. It is faced with trying to find solution that meets the city's desire to tackle povertry issues while still advancing the commercial life of the core.
Groups such as the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, the Hamilton Legal Clinic and the Campaign for Adequate Welfare and Disability Benefits spoke at the committee, advocating on their own issues for big solutions from not just municipal government, but the province as well:on poverty, incomes security, mental health issues and provincial housing policy.
"Part of the solution is not complaining." said Maria Antelo, of the Hamilton legal clinic. "Where are the jobs, where are the day programs?"
Hamilton Police outlined their success with the ACTION team—a special enforcement unit dedicated to policing high-needs areas such as the downtown.
Downtown BIA blasted city staff for not having a plan to deal the downtown nuisance behaviours originally brought to the task force at the end of May.
City staff was tasked with looking into a Barrie model of policing nuisance behaviour, and the possibility of a pilot project of adding an additional municipal by-law officer and an addition police officer to patrol the core.
Tools in place
While staffers presented the Barrie model, they showed Hamilton already has the tools in place, just in a less cohesive fashion. City by-law and police representatives said there was no need to add more staff, just to reallocate the staff they already have. Jason Farr, Ward 2 councillor and chair of the task force on cleanliness and security, said while there would be no additiions to staff now, he didn’t officially rule it out.
Meanwhile, the Right House says it installed $7,000 worth of security cameras to watch the situation outside their doors. It’s a situation they claim is costing them money: Current tenants are threatening to leave if nothing is done.
Prospective tenants, according to the Right House, felt like walking in the downtown core was a “different city” than the rest of Hamilton.
“Do something,” Hubar pleaded. “Do something now.”
The plan in place now is a policing one: Hamilton police have a special project aimed at the drug trafficking outside of the Right House. In the last month, police say four people have been arrested and charged for trafficking outside the corner of King and Hughson.
Insp. Scott Rastin said it will involve some drug units, but did not provide other details.
Less than a dozen protesters were in attendance at the meeting, but Hubar said her fight was not with them.
Hubar said the group picketed in front of the Right House Monday morning, holding signs that said that sitting was not a crime.
She reiterated her focus has always been on criminal activity.
“This poverty, homeless issue took on a life of its own. That was never my intent,” Hubar said. “I would be more satisfied after I hear from (Hamilton Police) on exactly, specifically they’re proposing to do.”