The Downtown BIA launched a petition back in March calling on the city to increase the police presence downtown to address safety concerns, a message which they now say was heard loud and clear at City Hall.

Campbell River Downtown BIA thanks city for actually listening to public outrage over the state of downtown

City says, you’re welcome, but admits there’s still a long way to go

The Downtown Business Improvement Association says it’s clear that Campbell River City Council actually does listen to its constituents when they make noise.

Lisa Whitmore, co-chair of the Downtown BIA, presented at council this week, thanking the city for the moves they have made recently in an effort to improve safety downtown.

For the past two years, Whitmore says, the BIA has turned much of its attention to the issue of safety in the downtown core. “As representatives for this city’s business leaders, our collective position in the spring of ‘18 was one of desperation,” she says, which is what prompted the BIA to pen a letter to the city about the issue.

“The BIA requested, in the strongest possible terms, that a police presence be assigned to downtown to address public drunkenness, violence, drug activity and other crimes and misdemeanors,” Whitmore says. “We pledged that if this did not occur within one week, we would launch an aggressive campaign to enlist public support in restoring a safe and lawful downtown.”

And they followed through on that pledge. On March 19, one week after their letter to the city was received, a public petition went live, which was signed by over 1,000 people of Campbell River.

“The response from the residents of the city was immediate and overwhelming,” Whitmore says. “What we heard was frustration and outrage. And it all shared a similar tone.”

Whitmore read some of the comments left on the survey for council from people who said they were unwilling to visit downtown due to safety concerns or discomfort about the behavior they saw happening there.

The city then initiated the Safer Downtown program, announced at the beginning of May, which included a base of operations on Shoppers Row for bylaw officers and RCMP, along with security guards from Footprints Security, along with the hiring of another bylaw officer with a focus on complaints and concerns surrounding safety downtown.

Whitmore calls this effort “a major step forward, which we believe will change the landscape of our downtown in a meaningful way,” calling the imitative, “forward thinking,” and, “a model whose time has come.”

Mayor Andy Adams told Whitmore that although council, too, believes this is a good first step, it’s not going to happen overnight just because there are a few more people downtown enforcing the rules.

“This is going to be a long road,” Adams says. “That road is going to need to work in collaboration with the city, the BIA, along with all of the service organizations.

“One of council’s strategic priorities is to look after our most vulnerable, and that means we need to continue to find ways to provide services that are needed for those who are maybe causing some of the issues in our downtown core.”