'You're hostage 24 hours a day': Needles, condoms litter downtown neighbourhood, resident complains

A man who CBC News has agreed not to identify says the drug trade and prostitution are visible daily in his neighbourhood near Ontario Street and Shuter Street. He's calling on the city and police to clean it up.

Man calling for cleanup of drug use and prostitution happening 'right in front of my house'

A man who CBC News has agreed not to identify is calling on the city and Toronto police to clean up the public drug use and prostitution in his neighbourhood near Shuter Street and Ontario Street. He says his neighbourhood is under siege. (CBC)

A condom in a city park just a metre or two away from a children's playground, needles littering the ground and prostitutes plying their trade on the streets.

They aren't exactly hallmarks of a picturesque residential area, but one downtown resident says they're precisely what has his community under siege, and he's calling on police and the city to take action.

The man, who CBC News has agreed not to identify, lives in the area of Ontario and Shuter streets and says he's fed up with what he says is daily visible drug activity and prostitution in his neighbourhood.

"Since the activity is 24 hours a day, it means that you're hostage 24 hours a day," the man told CBC News.

'An uptick in drug activity

"I've looked out and seen prostitutes performing sex acts on people right in front of my house, the [car] door opens and the semen is spit out onto the street."

It's a problem Councillor Pam McConnell attributes to an "uptick in drug activity" that she says police are working to nip in the bud.

"There are currently directed patrols in the area in direct response to this," she wrote in an email to CBC News. "We work constantly with local residents and businesses to address anti-social and criminal behaviour."

Contractor Ford Morland, who is working a construction job in the area of Ontario and Shuter streets says he’s come across up to ten needles in just two days. (CBC)

But while there may be a heavier police presence in the area, the man who complained to CBC News questions whether officers are taking enough action.

'Do they ever confront anyone?'

"If the police would come up and down the alleys and stop this behaviour, this neighbourhood wouldn't have a reputation," he said.

"Do they ever confront anyone, do they ever stop these behaviours?"

The needles have posed a workplace hazard for contractor Ford Morland, who is working a construction job in the area.

He says he's come across up to 10 needles in just two days.

A condom is seen 50 feet from a playground inside a community park in the Ontario and Shuter street area. ( )

"I've picked up a few myself," he told CBC News. This is my first job here and I've been scared since I've started here. I don't feel comfortable working here."

Supervised injection sites a solution?

One solution may lie in supervised safe injection sites, something the city is considering. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, research shows they can reduce public drug use and the needles left behind.

"Supervised Injection Services have been shown to not increase crime and disorder in the surrounding neighbourhood and actually reduce other problems like public drug use and discarded injection equipment," a presentation brief by CAMH director Dr. Jurgen Rehm said.

A report from the city's medical officer released in March calls for three safe injection sites at The Works Needle Exchange Program on Victoria Street near Yonge and Dundas, the Queen West Community Health Centre and the South Riverdale Community Health Centre.

Until the city takes action though, many residents remain cautious, including the man who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity. 

"Some curious kid is going to come a long and the first thing kids do is put things in their mouths," the man said.