Nfld. & Labrador

Long's Hill wants solutions to neighbourhood sex trade, illegal activity

In the wake of a daylight assault on Long's Hill, a St. John's advocacy group is looking for solutions.
According to a city councillor, there have been numerous complaints from people who live in the Long's Hill area. (Katie Breen/CBC)

In the wake of a daylight assault on Long's Hill, a St. John's advocacy group is looking for solutions.

Jonathan Galgay, the St. John's city councillor whose ward includes Long's Hill, said the city frequently gets complaints about harassment in the area, which is frequented by sex workers.

Coun. Jonathan Galgay says the city has to work with police and outreach groups to protect the safety of residents, and women in the sex trade. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

"[Residents are] complaining that residents are actually being approached by those men who are frequenting the area," Galgay told CBC on Monday.

"Oftentimes they're approaching them, they're confused, they're not sure if they're involved in the sex trade or if they're residents. They're trying to sell drugs, they're approaching people."

Horrifed — not surprised by assault

The councillor said he was horrified to hear about last week's assault — but not surprised.

"I've had calls from people who live in the neighbourhood who say that they've been approached before, and this is not the first time that people have been approached or they have been accosted by individuals in this neighbourhood."

Galgay said the city needs to find a way to ensure the safety of both women in the sex trade and residents being approached by people buying sex or drugs.

This is not the first time that people have been approached or they have been accosted by individuals in this neighbourhood.- Jonathan Galgay

He said city staff have removed public benches in the area to try to discourage loitering, and he's approached owners of vacant buildings to ask them to increase the amount of lighting they use.

"The City of St. John's is very limited in terms of what they can do to step in to a situation like this," said Galgay. "It's also based on what powers you have as a municipality or a province."

One possibility, said the councillor, is moving the sex trade to a safer location, adding Long's Hill is somewhat dark and secluded from heavy traffic.

Moving sex trade an option

"We need to look at ways in which there can be some type of transition to a more — I wouldn't necessarily say a commercial district — but somewhere where it's somewhat of a safer environment."

In the wake of a daylight assault on Mia Penney on Long's Hill, a St. John's group is hosting a meeting to try to find solutions to problems in the neighbourhood. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Galgay said the RNC has an important role in preventing trouble in the area, and a meeting later this week aims to bring together everyone involved. The Safe Harbour Outreach Project is hosting a meeting Thursday and has invited residents as well as representatives from the police and from city council.

Galgay said SHOP is also bringing in a representative from a Vancouver neighbourhood initiative called "Living in Community" to discuss ways to for all groups involved to make the area safer.

"It's a balancing act," he said.

"I would love to be able to go in and safely make some changes in the neighbourhood, but we just don't have the authority to do that, and that's why we have to rely on SHOP to provide us with the advice and we need to work with the RNC, and that's exactly what we're doing,"

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

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