Fewer 'unwanted guests' in Regina stores, but clampdown worries critics
Last year, police service received more than 3,000 complaints
A Regina police initiative aimed at cracking down on people causing problems in downtown stores appears to be getting results — although critics say it targets the underclass.
City police say they're getting 18 per cent fewer calls about drunks, shoplifters and other unruly or unwanted visitors after launching the program earlier this year.
The idea is that businesses can use the province's trespassing law to keep unwanted people away.
The store has to fill out a form banning the person and give it to him and her. If the person keeps coming back, the police can be called and give the person a ticket.
Several people were at a meeting of the Regina Board of Police Commissioners to complain about the clampdown on what the city calls "unwanted guests".
Robyn Pitawanakwat said police and business owners are targeting people who are marginalized, homeless or not white.
"They are focusing on the most vulnerable people and ticketing them," Pitawanakwat said. "There are so many businesses that are doing discriminatory practices and they're not being ticketed. Why not ticket them?"
Police say they are sympathetic to people without a home who might be looking for warm shelter in a downtown store.
However, if those people are considered disruptive, police have an obligation to protect a business owner.
Last year, police received 3,033 calls from businesses about unwanted visitors.
This year under the new procedure, they've given out only 38 tickets. However, it's believed shop owners have been handing out many more forms banning the problem visitors.
Those forms appear to be effective as far as discouraging repeat offenders goes, resulting in the 18 per cent reduction in calls, the police said.
A six-month progress report on the program was submitted to the Board of Police Commissioners Wednesday at its monthly meeting.