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Business fed up with ‘countless thefts, threats of violence, drug abuse’

Campbell River Dairy Queen calls for public nuisance designation for overdose prevention site
Campbell River’s Overdose Prevention Site. Photo by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror

Another downtown business has asked Campbell River City Council to declare the Overdose Prevention Site (OPS) a nuisance property.

After a slough of dangerous and disturbing behaviours coming from the users of the neighbouring OPS, Campbell River Dairy Queen (DQ) owner, Rob Bigelow, wrote council at the end of September asking for the nuisance property designation. Bigelow’s letter was on the agenda for the Oct. 12 regular council meeting.

“Our store (has) always been the place for a smile and a story and creating positive memories for all who touch DQ,” Bigelow says. “After the relocation in 2017 to the brand-new building (on Dogwood Street), we wanted to build upon that culture and keep a downtown presence. With the opening of the Overdose Prevention Site (OPS) by Vancouver Island Mental Health Society (VIMHS) at 1330 Dogwood St., it has been anything but.”

The Campbell River OPS or sobering and assessment centre opened in July 2017 and provides front line help for people struggling with substance abuse and addiction at a site that is considered convenient for people relying on street level services for food and shelter while facing addiction challenges, according to the VIMHS website. Sobering and assessment facilities are open 24 hours a day, offering sobering beds for short-term services (up to 24 hours) available to individuals of any gender aged 17 and older who are experiencing intoxication due to drug or alcohol use.

Operating across the street from the OPS has been difficult for the DQ, Bigelow says.

“The Dairy Queen has been subject to countless thefts, threats of violence, and a place to abuse drugs on a daily basis by the patrons of the OPS,” Bigelow says. “We’ve had to put a barrier up on front of our washrooms to make them only available to customers.”

Two years ago, Bigelow says, the DQ’s assistant manager, who was pregnant at the time, asked a crowd of people abusing drugs on the patio to move along. She was threatened by a person with an illegally-obtained taser.

Last spring, there was an incident involving a someone waving a stolen sawed-off shotgun around the restaurant’s side door.

“The owner of the stolen shotgun came from behind him and assaulted him in the back of his head with a stolen police baton,” Bigelow says. “During the assault, a hand-crafted taser fell off his person as well as several knives.

“To this day, it remains as the single most frightening event of my life, I can only imagine the trauma inflicted to the customers as well as the staff members present at the time, these people are someone’s sons or daughters.”

READ MORE: Confrontation at Campbell River Dairy Queen leads to assault

Bigelow says the DQ has a history of being a first job of many young Campbell River high school students. He says parents are now refusing to let them apply to work at DQ.

Meanwhile, the incidents mentioned are “only a fraction of the daily events we must endure.”

Bigelow says he is not opposed to people seeking the help they need and that help being provided.

“However, the execution is done at a checklist level with no oversight beyond the perimeter of the OPS building,” Bigelow says. “Theft, violence and vandalism, as well as discarded drug paraphernalia are all impacts felt by the adjacent properties and businesses with no accountability.”

Bigelow “formally” requested council declare the OPS as a nuisance property. He believes that having the OPS site being accountable for the damages caused would serve as a deterrent.

Bigelow’s letter is the third from a business brought before council requesting the OPS be designated a nuisance property. This summer, another neighbour of the OPS and the DQ, Pioneer Home Hardware, also requested designation after listing a litany of behaviours and problems blamed on patrons of the OPS.

READ MORE: Downtown business airs litany of complaints about overdose prevention site

Council has requested city staff to report back on the public nuisance designation and city CAO Elle Brovold said that one is in development.

In response to a question from council, she did say that a public nuisance bylaw identifies behaviours or actions that emanate from a property that impact adjacent properties and the intent is to seek compliance through ticketing for those behaviours. The staff report would identify what the city’s ability would be to implement a public nuisance bylaw for those types of behaviours.

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