Toronto

Toronto renters blast remote security system after homeless men found asleep in shared spaces

In two Toronto apartment buildings, the security situation has declined to the point where homeless people have been able to take up residence in basement bathrooms and laundry rooms.

Residents of Bloor-Spadina area buildings say they’ve had bikes stolen, cars broken into

A homeless person sleeps in an apartment tower's basement bathroom in a picture provided by a building resident frustrated with management's decision to get rid of human security guards. (Josh Benzacar/Submitted)

In two Toronto apartment buildings, the security situation has deteriorated to the point where homeless people have been able to take up residence in basement bathrooms and laundry rooms.

Residents at the Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue-area apartment towers say the problems began when management, Starlight Investments, got rid of their human security guards in favour of a video camera-based security system around two years ago.

Since then, the residents say, their buildings have become such easy marks that people can infiltrate shared spaces like laundry rooms.

I opened the door and saw a homeless man had set up camp in the bathroom.- Josh Benzacar, apartment resident

"I feel unsafe going downstairs to do my laundry by myself now. I don't like feeling unsafe in my own home," Sarah Etienne told CBC News.

Tenant Josh Benzacar, whose building still has an empty security desk in its front lobby, said the new system of cameras and microphones — officially called "remote concierge" — isn't working.

When he's called the security official on duty to report an issue, he said, "you can tell they're a young person working in a call centre with a bunch of computer screens around them."

Benzacar said since the security change he's had a bike stolen and his car broken into. He's also spotted used needles on the ground in areas clearly in view of security cameras. On Sunday, he said, he smelled burning incense outside the men's change room.

"That kind of raised a red flag," he said.

"I opened the door and saw a homeless man had set up camp in the bathroom."

Benzacar reported the situation to the front desk, but was infuriated by the response.

"They requested that I come back down and take pictures of the guy and send it to them," he said.

Property manager reviewing 'security protocols'

After that incident, Benzacar shared a series of images highlighting the building's security issues on Facebook, which prompted responses from several other residents, as well.

Starlight Investments declined to comment on specific incidents, but told CBC News in a statement that: "We regularly review security protocols in all our communities, and continue to work with our site staff, security personnel and tenants to safeguard the property and its residents."

The company would not say whether it's reviewing its remote concierge system.

Both Benzacar and Etienne said they'd like to see a return of security staff. 

With files from Nick Boisvert

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