Society, not George Street, cause of stabbings: Seamus O'Keefe

The executive director of the George Street Association says recent stabbing incidents on the popular downtown St. John's destination are happening because of a changing society.
Supt. Jason Sheppard talks RNC response to recent stabbings on George Street 9:55

The group representing bar owners on George Street says recent stabbings on the popular downtown St. John's destination are happening because of a changing society.

Seamus O'Keefe, executive director of the George Street Association, said business owners on George Street are worried about the public perception, and the street's image following two stabbings in two weeks.

This past Saturday, Michael Kelly, 20, was arrested and charged after a man was sent to hospital after he was stabbed.

A man was taken to hospital March 29 with serious injuries after being stabbed. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary later arrested and charged Jake Long, 18.

 "To be brutally honest, it's not a George Street issue, it's a societal issue that we're dealing with and it's manifesting on George Street," he said.

"This most recent weekend, there were incidents all over metro St. John's. The fact that we had hundreds, if not thousands, of people congregating on our street, this kind of manifests."

Stabbings happened on street

O'Keefe emphasized that both stabbings happened on the street itself, and not inside any of the bars.

According to O'Keefe, the scene on George Street is rapidly changing, and with it comes increased risks.

"The George Street of today is not the George Street it was 10 years ago. I think people are showing up here on George Street and have other influences at play, not just alcohol. And we have to deal with these issues."

Police and an ambulance were on George Street in the early morning hours on Saturday, responding to the second stabbing incident on the street in as many weekends. (Curtis Rumbolt/CBC)
He said the association is pushing for a greater presence of cabs in the area during the late night hours to get people off the street faster, in an effort to avoid similar incidents.

But O'Keefe also said a stronger police presence would go a long way to deter this kind of behaviour.

"There's a whole bunch of elements at play here, and the one I think are the biggest and strongest proponents of is greater [Royal Newfoundland Constabulary] presence on George Street."

He said he plans to approach RNC Chief Bill Janes about the possibility of increased patrols walking the street, to make patrons aware that they are nearby.