Trail residents are fed up with the ongoing criminal activity in the Silver City.
A delegation from Concerned Trail Citizens (CTC) and members of a social media community group met with city council and RCMP at the Aug. 17 council meeting. Each delegation spoke out in the public question period about the growing incidents and severity of criminal activity, and how it has dramatically affected their lives.
Patti Crain worked as a psychiatric nurse in Trail for four decades, and most recently at the Trail shelter. She spoke on behalf of CTC, noting a dramatic rise in crime and drug use in her West Trail neighbourhood.
“It’s really disconcerting when it’s never happened before for people to just come into your yard and take what they want.”
In addition to a spike in petty theft, Crain brought a number of concerns to the table including: rampant drug use and trafficking, random gun shots, and most notably, a large influx of homeless people.
Following Crain’s presentation, a woman who moved to West Trail from North Vancouver, said she was also terrified by the criminal element.
“The issue with the Short Street shanty town has become an absolute nightmare. The drug deals that I’ve witnessed between that shanty town and the shack on Daniel Street - I’ve seen known criminals going back and forth so many times it’s unbelievable.
“We’re not even comfortable sitting on our deck enjoying the view that we are paying for, because there is so much (crime), it’s astounding what goes on.”
“I feel like I’ve moved into the downtown East Side from North Van. I thought I was moving to a sweet, little, wholesome town, and I’ve never experienced more stress than I have since I’ve lived here.”
Trail resident Shane Voigt led the next delegation and spoke passionately about growing up in a more peaceful era in Trail, and how he is dismayed and angered at what he sees and hears on the streets of his hometown.
“It started with conversations on Facebook, social media, with neighbours saying they had this stolen, young kid had his bike stolen, there’s needles here, drug use happening here, a stabbing at Gyro,” Voigt told the Times following council. “So you start congregating in these places and talking to people in your community, and you start asking, ‘What’s going to get done?’”
Trail Mayor Lisa Pasin says the city has taken the problem very seriously and is engaging the RCMP, as well as Interior Health, BC Housing, and Career Development Services for assistance.
“This is a very complex issue involving very complex people,” said Pasin.
“The concept of homelessness in our vulnerable population, has absolutely changed from when we were younger and our parents were younger. But it is not going away. It’s a societal trend where it’s not just Trail that has homeless and vulnerable people, it’s not just Trail that has drug addicts, or people who have substance abuse problems, it is absolutely every municipality in the country, if not the continent.”
Pasin also suggested that the vulnerable population also becomes more visible in the summer months, and with the CERB, have the means to move wherever they choose. However, to suggest there was a program that ships out their most vulnerable to places like Trail is patently false.
“In the recent weeks, I’ve had a lot of conversations with the police and the mayors from other municipalities, and there is no shipment of homeless people between Nelson and Trail and Trail and Nelson. If people are moving it’s because they now have the resources with CERB.”
“I absolutely get it’s concerning and it’s scary for a lot of citizens … But these people have free will so they can travel and come and live in a city if they choose.”
Trail is allotted 14 RCMP officers by the federal government, yet, many in the Trail detachment have been off duty due to illness, stress leave, or injury, which the Feds do not replace.
Nevertheless, in response to residents’ concerns, the city announced last week that it is funding the RCMP to increase patrols in downtown Trail and that it is also reactivating Citizens on Patrol.
“We just announced the augmentation of foot-patrols so hopefully that’s going to help,” said CAO David Perehudoff. “Council met today and talked about retaining a private security firm. They work at night right now and do patrols, but we’re going to enhance that and do some daytime patrols. So there’s a lot of things we’re trying to do, but it’s going to be a long process.”
Recent crime statistics indicate that criminal activity actually declined from last year, and while some incidents may seem more severe, RCMP Cpl. Devon Reid says much of the hysteria is being created online.
“I think that’s a perception created a lot by social media,” said Reid. “I’ve worked in Trail since 2008. I don’t think we have more crime or more criminals, but I think it is more reported now, and more talked about on social media.”
Reid even joined the ‘West Kootenay Crime Watch’ group on Facebook and said much of what is ‘reported’ on the website, doesn’t correlate with the RCMP files.
“There’s a lot of inaccuracies on that website that does not reflect what the police report says, and I think that is over-reported on social media of what the actual crime is.”
Voigt and CTC, however, see it in a very different light. Voigt says, he hopes that the extra RCMP patrols funded by the city and the reactivation of Citizens on Patrol will prove effective, but believes more needs to be done.
“I like the Citizens on Patrol thing,” said Voigt. “But it’s a toothless tiger, you’re not going to get any real things done there. We need to fix the court system somehow, start lobbying the government on that. I understand half the people arrested, their cases don’t even make it to crown counsel, so that’s a problem. The mental health and addictions, there needs to be more treatment facilities.”
Coun. Carol Dobie wrapped up the discussion with a sobering plea to the delegations to keep advocating.
Dobie pointed to MADD (Mothers against drunk drivers) and the Amber Alert program that started small but grew into influential global organizations.
“This is a community problem, and it’s going to take a community to fix it … When many, many voices come together, we have a greater chance of seeing change. So as much as we want to try to support our citizens, we are restricted by the limited power we do have … So as a community, instead of coming just to council, the second step, I would say, is go back to your group and let’s start getting petitions and work hard to go after the levels of government to effect change.”
For Voigt and CTC supporters, they are intent on continuing their efforts to improve the current situation, rattle residents out of their complacency, and continue to provoke action.
“This is our first step to city council to find out what they plan on doing,” added Voigt. “I understand some of their answers, and some maybe not so much. I found it productive and informative, but it’s definitely not the solution.
“But we’re not going away and we’re not going to stay quiet.”