Backyard vagrant sparks Jackson Park neighbourhood petition to city council

A woman is filing a petition to Windsor's city council because she said her neighbourhood near Jackson Park has experienced a lot of crime in the recent year.

Ward 3 councillor Rino Bortolin says issues like drug use aren't only issues in the downtown core

Jennie Berkeley holds her petition to city council that has garnered just over 20 signatures. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Unbeknownst to Jennie Berkeley, there was a homeless person sleeping on the white, round table in her backyard. She didn't find out until her neighbour had called the police for her.

Berkeley said when police were apprehending the person, they told him "'This is the third time we have dealt with you today. If we have to deal with you again, you will be arrested.'"

This experience led her to file a petition to city council, in hopes of getting more police presence in her Jackson Park neighbourhood and "a political response."

"We are at a crisis point," she said. "We can't live like this."

There are just more than twenty signatures on her petition — the bare minimum to bring something forward to council. People who signed are those who have been affected by different types of crime in the neighbourhood, she said.

From break-ins to witnessing drug use, she said while she understands there needs to be compassion for homeless people, but she also wants compassion for people who live in her neighbourhood.

Berkeley said her neighbour spotted a man sleeping on the white table in her backyard one day and called the police. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

New resident from downtown

Katie Groulx moved to the Jackson Park area after being "fed up" with her old neighbourhood near downtown, where there was "a lot of action, a lot of crime."

But the move didn't seem to bring a whole lot of change, she said.

"I was not expecting to walk out to see a pair of shoes on my back porch," Groulx said. She had a similar encounter as Berkeley with finding a person sleeping at her home.

Like Berkeley, when police came, she found out they had "dealt with him on several occasions on that specific day."

She said it feels like the problems in her old neighbourhood are spreading out and moving south.

Groulx moved to the area with her two kids about a week ago and she said she's worried for their safety. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

CBC News reached out to Windsor Police Service for crime statistics in this neighbourhood. However, police said it's too difficult to quantify the type of crime and the amount of it in such a general area. Police referred CBC to the crime map on their website

However, there isn't a way to compare crime rates of different neighbourhoods and their trends over the years. It's also not clear if all calls to police are uploaded into the database that populates this map. 

Ward meeting with residents

While the problem is something that needs to be taken care of, said Rino Bortolin, the ward councillor for the Jackson Park area where Berkeley and Groulx live, it doesn't do a whole lot to talk about where the people are coming from.

"If you're trying to put a blame on a different neighbourhood in the city, it's not really productive in actually addressing the issue," he said.

He did mention, however, that things like drug use and homelessness are spreading and it's no longer just an issue in the city's core.

He heard about Berkeley's petition not too long ago and is hoping to set up a meeting with residents and police officers to talk about what actions they can take to protect their homes.

A police officer will be brought in to talk about "crime prevention through environmental design," which is a strategy to make a place less desirable for crime.

Bortolin said even though calling the residents meeting might not change the actual crime rate in the area, it could help build relationships with police and alert officers of where hot spots might be.

"This isn't the first time we've addressed issues like this in different neighbourhoods," he said. "I think it starts with the residents coming out and talking about their neighbourhoods."

With files from Meg Roberts