An increase in violent crimes and property offences in the downtown Duncan corridor and area in 2022, particularly in the area where the Warmland shelter is located, contributed to a five per cent rise in crime overall in that part of the Cowichan community last year over 2021, according to the RCMP.
In an annual report on the downtown corridor for North Cowichan by Insp. Chris Bear, head of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment, Bear said assaults and robberies were the main drivers for the increases in violent crime in the downtown corridor last year.
He said assaults increased 51 per cent, with an additional 30 incidents from 2021, while robberies increased 56 per cent for the year, partly due to a series of robberies in early 2022 targeting the downtown area, and partly the result of an increase in violent shopliftings, particularly in the Cowichan Commons area, that occurred primarily in the last three months of 2022.
Bear said the area where the Warmland shelter is located, and where the Overdose Prevention Site moved to on York Road in 2021, was the largest centre of criminal activity in the corridor area in 2022.
“Overall there was 49 per cent increase in [criminal activity] in this area in 2022,” Bear said.
“The Warmland area is a consistent hot spot for street level assaults and 65 per cent of all assaults in this area occurred in streets, parking lots and open area, including parks.”
Bear said the Cowichan Commons area made up 10 per cent of the volume of RCMP files for the downtown area in 2022, and that property crimes, particularly shoplifting, and loitering/unwanted persons were the primary issues police were called to for this area.
He pointed out that the supportive housing facility Sq’umul’ Shelh Lelum’ on Paddle Road opened in April, 2022.
“File volume to the area peaked very quickly in April, and has fallen in the [last three months of the year] compared to previous months,” Bear said.
Other than the Warmland and Cowichan Commons areas, Bear said criminal activity in other areas of the corridor, including downtown Duncan, the TCH Corridor and Duncan Mall and area, all decreased in 2022.
At North Cowichan’s council meeting on Feb. 1, Mayor Rob Douglas said in his mayor’s report that he and staff members have met with some of the local business owners in the downtown core in recent weeks to discuss the area’s issues.
Douglas pointed out that the municipality played a big role in the opening of a corridor safety office in the area a number of years ago, and in implementing a corridor safety plan, which included an increased presence of bylaw officers and the hiring of a private security firm that works closely with the City of Duncan.
“But there continues to be some major issues in the area, and some of those have gotten worse,” he said.
“Myself and staff are involved in active discussions to figure out what role we can play in helping these local business owners address some of these issues, while recognizing that as a municipality, our tools are quite limited.”
Douglas said issues with the downtown corridor have been a top priority for him since he was elected mayor.
“I anticipate this is going to continue to be a focus for us over our four-year term,” he said.
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