Downtown business owners see increase in drug, criminal activity

By Jill Sperling
May 13, 2016 - 4:25pm Updated: May 13, 2016 - 6:58pm

KAMLOOPS — A pair of downtown business owners want to see police and bylaw officers doing more to tackle activities that sometime accompany drug use. 

The alley behind Bikini Bill's on Victoria St. has become a dumping ground for used needles among other things.

"The drugs are the drugs," said Bikini Bill's owner, Bill Sanesh, "but then there's also the urination. 

"They probably urinate at our backdoor about 20 out of 30 days in a month, and defecate at least once or twice per month. That's not very nice for the staff when they're coming to work. Also, we have vehicles broken into, The recent one last week had over $1,000 damage with a crowbar."

Sanesh said people are afraid to go downtown, which means he's losing business, and he's not the only one. 

Several blocks away the back alley of Doctor Love has become yet another dumping ground for drug kits. Owner Carol Schweitzer estimates a loss of more than 20 per cent of her business.

"I'm constantly faced with a fear of retaliation. I'm faced with a fear of being a downtown resident as well as a downtown business owner and landlord," Schweitzer said. 

"I feel that the community is going sideways and flat very fast."

Andrew Iadarola is the supervisor of the CAP Team. Their job is to promote tourism while making sure the downtown area is safe. That includes running a needle disposal service. 

"If there are any sharps objects out in the community or downtown especially we can come and dispose of them for a business or a person in general," Iadarola said.

His response to complaints of increased drug use downtown is that it's a typically cyclical issue. 

"There might be an overall increase," he said, "but it's not something that a shopper downtown would notice. It's something that's in less public areas."

The response is quite different at ASK Wellness, where another needle disposal service is offered.

"This is a different population of folks that we've been seeing that have been using some of our services and other kind of emergency services in Kamloops," said Executive Director Bob Hughes. "Sadly, I would argue the use of intravenous drug use has gone up considerably among the younger population." 

The concern is now for public safety, with sharps being left in public spaces and people actively using drugs in back alleys. 

"This invites the conversation in our community about the value and the legitimacy of bringing in a supervised injection service." 

That's a conversation ASK Wellness will be having at their annual general meeting in September. 

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