Nfld. & Labrador

Tessier Place residents fearful of escalating violence, illegal activity

Some residents say there is an increase of drug use and sex work in their area, and they fear for their own safety.
Four years after a man was killed in the area, residents are again raising concerns about illegal activity. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

Residents of  an already notorious neighbourhood in downtown St. John's are growing increasingly frustrated over ongoing illegal activity playing out right on their doorsteps.

Kristin Newman said she and others living near Tessier Place "witness violence, on a daily basis," and have been frustrated with what they call a lack of action on their concerns.  

"I have seen drug use, intoxication and solicitation right outside my living room window," Newman told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show

Clearly frustrated by the situation, resident Steven Gardiner made a dire prediction during an interview. 

"Mark my words," he said. "There was a murder [in 2013] and there will be another one soon." 

Tessier Place has a past

Tessier Place made headlines four years ago when Joey Whalen, 47, died following a violent attack at the hands of Kenny Green, who was later convicted of manslaughter. Green attacked Whalen in a house that was a haven for drug users. 

Homeowners met with police and city officials shortly after Whalen's death to express their concerns, but feel nothing has been done to address the escalating issues.

Kenny Green was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Joey Whalen. (CBC)

"This isn't just living downtown and having drunk people outside on a Friday night," said Newman, who tried unsuccessfully to sell her house last year. 

While taking her child to daycare, she said, she has been forced to explain why there is a sex trade worker right outside her door. 

Area residents say they have watched the situation around Long's Hill, Cabot Place, Livingstone Street and Carter's Hill deteriorate to the point where they now fear for their safety.

'Astonishing' drug use

Gardiner, who described the drug use in the neighbourhood as "astonishing," is at a loss to explain what needs to be done to make the area safe, but says "you don't need to be a SWAT team member to figure out where all this is going down." 

Gardiner, whose car has been vandalized, said he regularly sees young women — some in their teens — working near his home.

Steven Gardiner: "Mark my words, there was a murder [in 2013] and there will be another one soon." (Paula Gale/CBC)

He and Newman said they cannot understand how this can be allowed to happen every day and go unchecked.

Heather Jarvis, the program coordinator with Safe Harbour Outreach Project, said SHOP has seen an increase in similar problems all over the downtown area. 

This isn't just living downtown and having drunk people outside on a Friday night.- Kristin Newman

"It's not just this one neighbourhood that is experiencing problems with dirty needles and a lack of support services through people who are dealing with unrelated addictions and mental health issues," she said. 

The outreach project primarily offers support to people in the sex trade.

Jarvis said it is important not to blame those workers as the root cause of violent crimes, sexual assault and drug abuse.

According to Jarvis, doing that would "revicitimize, shame and blame" those people.

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

She said part of the answer lies with creating things like a safe injection site and perhaps even install outdoor sharp containers for needles in areas where people are known to use drugs. 

Ironically, Newman feels it has been their continuous complaints to police that actually makes some sex trade workers feel safe "because they know we are watching and call police on a daily basis." 

Gardiner and Newman are pushing for another meeting with the city and RNC to get answers and action. 

About the Author

Fred Hutton is a former co-host of the St. John's Morning Show.