A homeless camp and criminal activity at the old shooting range on Quinsam Road is as bad as the unruly behaviour downtown, according to one city councillor.
“This is as serious a problem, maybe even more serious a problem than our downtown area,” Coun. Ron Kerr said at the Aug. 17 regular city council meeting.
Councillors discussed the situation on Quinsam Road after receiving correspondence from residents of the area.
“Within the last year or so, we have seen an increase in foot traffic, vehicle traffic and what seems to be a fully operational homeless camp right down the road from our home,” Tom Woodward said in a letter to the city that was included in the Aug. 17 agenda package.
The camp is located on Quinsam Road, both on the side where the indoor rifle range is, as well as on the opposite side of the road from it. The land is apparently provincially-owned land that used to house the outdoor shooting range which was moved due to is proximity to residential dwellings.
“This (shooting range) move was something that I fully supported at the time – based on what has now taken up the location, I have to say I am second-guessing having the range leave,” Woodward said.
The situation has gotten so bad, Canada Post has stopped delivering to mailboxes in the area due to safety concerns.
“I completely sympathize and understand why Canada Post as an employer did this for their employees – as we ourselves no longer feel safe in the area,” Woodward said.
The RCMP have been contacted, Woodward said, and they are sympathetic but he says their hands are tied due to the status of the land in question that is “somehow under the jurisdiction of the conservation officers.”
“I realize that it is a difficult time in our society, however – as stated above – I do believe that when an issue escalates as it has, residents no longer feel safe, complaints have been made – and federal employees of Canada Post will no longer deliver to the area – it is time that our elected officials take the situation as seriously, and deal with it,” Woodward said.
Quinsam Road resident Peter Kuehnel voiced his concerns about the camp as well.
“My family is not feeling safe with this growing camp, especially since we do not see any plans to deal with it,” he said in a letter to the city, also included in the Aug. 17 agenda package. “We see police needing to come into the area, however, they seem to be limited on what they can do with the encampment. We also see an increase in dumping of shopping carts along Quinsam Road, can we have the responsible stores be advised to pick up carts?”
Trudy Couture also wrote to council.
“I am in a constant state unease every time I leave my home due to the goings-on at the camp as well as what happens outside the camp,” Couture wrote. “It has become a regular occurrence to witness and to dodge what I would call drug activity along the road since the start of this camp. I have had to stop my vehicle more than once to assist or to avoid hitting someone so out of their minds, (they are) literally laying in the middle of the road. I have had to re-route my morning walks so as not to walk past the camp as I am in fear for my safety.”
Coun. Kerr said he met with some of the residents and visited the area. There are illegal campsites on the ground, cars driving in and out of the area and this activity is happening day and night.
“Honestly, the time I spent up there, I felt very unsafe, myself,” Kerr told the council meeting.
Coun. Michele Babchuk said city staff have made it clear that the city has no jurisdiction over the land in question and put forward a motion that the city request a meeting from MLA Claire Trevena on the use of Crown land in the area. The motion was passed
City manager Deborah Sargent urged councillors to also write to the province and lobby for action on the ground and criminal activity going on, which was added to Babchuk’s motion. RCMP are responding to incidents in the area on a regular basis but Crown has indicated that unless there is anywhere for the homeless to go, or unless there is an immediate risk to public safety, for the time being they won’t be proceeding with removing anybody from the area, Sargent said.
Kerr said this isn’t just a homelessness issue, it’s a lot of criminal activity that is “flying under the umbrella of homelessness.” The city is gaining clarity on the homelessness situation in downtown Campbell River and this issue is tied to that one.
Kerr also had a subsequent motion passed asking city staff to report back as soon as possible with information and options on what to do about the situation. His subsequent motion was also passed.