Over 30 store owners along Scott Street have signed a petition to demonstrate a need for action regarding the increase of “street people” loitering in the downtown core.
“We, the business owners, are experiencing a decrease in the number of legitimate shoppers coming downtown as they are afraid of being harassed and/or pan handled,” BIA chair Doug Cuthbertson wrote on behalf of downtown businesses in a letter received by council at its Monday evening meeting.
“We have received many complaints from our customers in regards to having their way blocked and being asked for handouts, sometimes to the point of being threatened,” he added.
The same business owners who signed the petition have also experienced a marked increase in shoplifting.
The shoplifting is so rampant that they have complied a shared list of people that have been caught stealing from their stores, Cuthbertson wrote.
He said the list of known shoplifters is at 29 and growing.
“All of these people have been charged and brought to court and subsequently released with no repercussion," Cuthbertson wrote. "Knowing this, they are free to steal again.”
He said business owners are also getting complaints from their staff who say as they leave work, they're being approached and asked for handouts from individuals who are clearly intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol.
This is most commonly an issue among staff who have to park in the legion parking lot and walk through a back alley connected to Scott Street.
Cuthbertson's letter said all of the issues around loitering and shoplifting are directly related to the “rampant methamphetamine problem” that this town is currently facing.
He said while the store owners don't have all the answers, they would suggests:
- having the OPP walking the streets several times a day;
- moving the food shelter off of Scott Street;
- having the OPP drug unit target the methamphetamine problem;
- having the OPP target the person/business who is buying and selling stolen merchandise; and
- having the town's bylaw officers walking the downtown core regularly—not necessarily to enforce the bylaws but to be seen as a uniformed officer.
Council referred Cuthbertson's letter to the Planning and Development executive committee with additional input provided by the Police Services Board.