Doug Mackenzie wants to help relieve some of the ongoing pressure on businesses along Duncan’s Whistler Street.
Mackenzie, who has taken on a number of projects to help the troubled area over the last few years, has hired a trusted man from the neighbourhood to spend an hour each morning, from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., to clean up the storefronts along the Whistler Street corridor.
He said people hang out and do drugs in the area at night, and leave discarded needles, garbage and even feces all over the front of the businesses.
“I’ve talked to a number of business owners here, including Graeme Blackstock at Duncan Butchers and Will Arnold at Experience Cycle, and having to clean the mess up every morning, every day of the year, is taking a toll on them,” Mackenzie said.
“It’s not a great start to their days and puts them in a bad mood. I’m concerned that some of the business owners in this area may snap on someone if this continues, and that wouldn’t be good for anyone. That’s why I decided to have someone clean up the storefronts in the mornings.”
Mackenzie said the charge for the daily clean up is $40 a day, starting on Sept. 29, and he is paying for the first seven days.
He said he is hoping that others in the community will step up and “adopt” a day, a week or more in which they will pay for the service.
“People are always saying they want to help improve this area but don’t know how, so now they can help by supporting this program. This problem is taking an emotional toll on the business owners and their employees and we can’t wait for the authorities to deal with it. If anyone wants to help, call me at 250-864-6068.”
Mackenzie, who owns the Options Okanagan Treatment Centre for those struggling with addictions, grew up in the Whistler Street area and began a campaign last year, called “Love Your Community, One Street at a Time”, in an effort to clean up the more troubled areas of downtown, including Whistler Street.
The campaign includes painting and clean-up projects, and doing whatever it takes to make the area safe for residents and visitors.
Mackenzie said the Safer Community Plan, which was devised in 2019 by local governments, the RCMP and other groups and has seen some increased enforcement presence in the area, is having only limited success.
Nineteen-year-old Brooke Murray, who is the manager of a fast-food restaurant in the area, also said the problems are not going away, despite the ongoing efforts through the Safer Community Plan.
Murray said she and her staff are often frightened by some of the people who regularly gather in front of the restaurant, and have been threatened a number of times.
She said it’s gotten to the point where she is afraid to walk the 10 feet to get to her car when she closes the restaurant each night.
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“I’ve seen guys with knives and even chainsaws out there,” Murray said.
“I’ve been working here for three years, and this has only gotten worse in that time.”
Mackenzie said when he heard of Murray’s concerns for her safety, he called Blackbird Security, which had been chosen in 2019 to provide safety ambassadors to help patrol the area as part of the Safer Community Plan, and offered to pay to have someone come by at closing time and walk Murray to her car.
“They said they would do it for free,” he said.
“We can’t wait for the authorities to do this. Despite all the work that has been done through the Safer Community Plan, these things are still happening every day. The only way this will change is if the people in the community get involved and do it themselves.”