Nfld. & Labrador

Not turning blind eye to crime in Long's Hill area of St. John's, RNC says

Police acknowledge a neighbourhood in downtown St. John's has become a hotspot for criminal activity, but say the force has not been neglecting the area.

Acting inspector Joe Gullage says force is working on long-term plan involving residents and other groups

Police have received 120 complaints from the neighbourhood between January and August. (Katie Breen/CBC)

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary acknowledges a neighbourhood in downtown St. John's has become a hotspot for criminal activity, but says the force has not been neglecting the area.

Residents of the Tessier Place, Long's Hill, Cabot Place, Livingstone Street and Carter's Hill areas have been complaining for years that the neighbourhood regularly hosts sex work, drug use and violent incidents.

Acting RNC inspector Joe Gullage said there's definitely been an increase in calls from the area, but he said the RNC has stepped up patrols accordingly.

"We have responded to 100 per cent of these calls," he told the St. John's Morning Show. "We will not turn a blind eye to any criminal activity we see. When we get a call, depending on where the unit is in that area, we respond as quickly as possible."

Joe Gullage is acting inspector with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. (Jo-Ann Dooley/CBC)

Gullage said when officers respond to calls, their top priority is protection of residents and women in the area. He understands that people are getting fed up with seeing crime near their homes, and admits that there has been a spike in traffic and drug-related activity there.

From Jan. 1 to Aug. 28 of this year, the RNC responded to 120 complaints in the neighbourhood, ranging from disorderly conduct to suspicious vehicles, drug use, sex trade workers and more.

The Program Coordinator with SHOP says the drug and sex trade issues are not unique to this neighbourhood. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

While officers will continue to respond whenever a resident makes a call, Gullage reccomends people give their name when they report a crime, instead of calling anonymously, so police can get a better picture of what's happening.

Long-term plan

Gullage said the RNC is also looking at a more long-term solution through an initiative called Living in the Community.

He said it's a model that's been adopted in other parts of the country and brings in various groups like City of St. John's, Eastern Health, Safe Harbour Outreach Project and more, to work out a plan so everyone can feel safe. 

Part of that will involve helping people with drug problems and those who want to get out of working in the sex industry.

"If there's a need that these people want to exit the sex trade industry, we have an exit strategy there to give them the supports necessary to do that," he said. "We believe that this is a community problem, and it takes all parts of the community to resolve this issue."