British Columbia

More security added around Victoria overdose prevention site

Twenty-four hour security patrols have been started around a two-block downtown area where residents raised concerns about the opening of an overdose prevention site.

Round the clock patrol follows nearby fence-building effort to prevent open drug dealing

The first overdose prevention centre opened in Victoria last month next to the Our Place community centre on Pandora Avenue (CHEK News)

Security is being beefed up near an overdose prevention service in downtown Victoria amid complaints about open drug dealing in the neighbourhood.

Last week, the Our Place society started managing a 24-hour security patrol around a two-block area of Pandora Avenue and Johnson Street.

The area includes the Our Place community centre and overdose prevention site, where drug users can inject in the presence of a paramedic.

Our Place executive director Don Evans said the increased security was in response to neighbours' concerns about the new overdose prevention service.

"They were concerned about possible drug dealers coming, more drug dealers coming to the area and the potential of more needles being in the neighbourhood," he told CBC Victoria associate producer Sterling Eyford.

Evans said a joint security arrangement with B.C. Housing and the Victoria Conservatory of Music next door will improve security in a two-block area that also includes the supportive housing facility at 844 Johnson St.

Workers erect a barrier around a B.C. Housing facility backing onto the 800-block of Pandora Avenue following reports of open drug dealing. (CHEK News)

The increased security on Pandora Avenue and Johnson Street comes amid a flurry of fence and wall-building in the area.

Last month, the Central Baptist Church on Pandora built a concrete and steel barrier around its entrance to keep out drug users and dealers, then last week B.C. Housing built a tall metal barrier around 844 Johnson Street.

Videos circulating on social media sites appeared to show people openly buying and selling drugs.

Victoria City Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe said the barriers and increased security will only move drug dealing to another area, but the owners' priority is to protect their own property.

 "We never wanted to have a community that looks like gated community," Thornton-Joe said. "But I think it's just a reality right now in our downtown core."

Amateur video shared on social media sites appeared to show open drug dealing on Victoria's Pandora Avenue. (CHEK News)

Meanwhile, a second temporary overdose prevention site will open in the Rock Bay area of Victoria early next month, according to a Victoria Cool Aid Society spokesperson.

Alan Rycroft said the temporary site will operate until a permanent site is located in the neighbourhood by Island Health.

With files from Sterling Eyford.