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Business owners vent frustration over discarded needles, garbage

Oct 18 2012
Scott Harrison, owner of Action Transmission and Auto repair, stands in front of the garbage and needles littered beside his shop. 

Scott Harrison, owner of Action Transmission and Auto repair, stands in front of the garbage and needles littered beside his shop.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , Times Colonist

Victoria Broco Auto Glass manager Stuart Doctor looked with frustration Tuesday at the broken garbage bags strewn with hypodermic needles that littered the area by his business's dumpster.

Not knowing what was in the bags when they were first dropped off, Doctor didn't want to move them.

Then a scavenger rifled through them, leaving the worrisome mess behind.

"It's a good thing I didn't [touch them], because there's got to be at least 100 needles in there," he said.

An initial call to the city to have the garbage cleaned up didn't help, he said. "They've told me that since it's on my property they can't do anything about it. We get people dumping garbage here all the time."

The city cleaned up the mess Wednesday after receiving inquiries from the Times Colonist. City spokeswoman Katie Josephson said in an email that "generally speaking," garbage collection on private commercial property is the responsibility of the business owner.

Doctor and Scott Harrison, who owns the neighbouring Action Transmission and Auto Repair, say discarded needles, urine, feces, garbage and graffiti are problems they encounter daily in the 2400 block of Douglas Street, located near the troubled 700 block of Queens Avenue.

The block is home to Queens Manor, the 36-unit former Traveller's Inn bought by the city and run by the Victoria Cool Aid Society as low-barrier housing at 710 Queens Ave. Another former Traveller's Inn at 760 Queens Ave. is a low-rent motel owned by Vancouver businessman and former Victoria council candidate Robin Klimpton.

Doctor said it's not uncommon to find people sleeping against his building on the weekends. He's been forced to lock his garbage bins during the day to keep people out.

"It's brutal. People sleeping here. Shopping carts left here," he said.

The business owners say the problem of people injecting drugs has worsened since a commercial building between their businesses and Queens Avenue has gone vacant, allowing people to use it to shield their drug use.

Harrison points to a used needle-drop box installed nearby as evidence that drug use is condoned in the subsidized Queens Manor.

"I don't think continuing to support rampant drug use in the Queens Manor is a solution to a problem. I think it's putting a Band-Aid on an artery wound. If you're going to be in there, shouldn't you have to be on some sort of program?" Harrison said.

But John Crean, Cool Aid manager of housing, said there are staff at Queens Manor 24-7, and while there isn't a zero-tolerance policy on substance use, there is a zero-tolerance policy on creating problems in the neighbourhood.

"We don't necessarily evict [for drug use], but we make sure that nobody's allowed to bother their neighbours," Crean said.

"There's no alcohol or drug use allowed out of their suites. Anything that's going to affect the neighbourhood is going to get them evicted."

The same can't be said for 760 Queens, he said, adding that the issues in the neighbourhood predate Queens Manor.

Both Harrison and Doctor want an increased police presence in the area. Three or four months ago, they say, it seemed police were driving by every hour but that has dropped off.

Const. Mike Russell said police tried to work with Harrison but he wasn't cooperative.

"Our officers went down there and got yelled at a couple of times and that was that," Russell said.

"You can't do much with that. If you're not going to have anybody who is going to help you out and give you information and work with you, there's not much more you can do."

Russell said there has been no change to the level of police service in the area.

In fact, Josephson said, there has been increased police and bylaw officer presence in the area.

She said complaints have dropped off in the past year and that the city has initiated additional street sweeping and sidewalk washing and on-call garbage pick up for large items, painted out graffiti and installed two needle drop boxes.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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