Collecting used needles has become routine for a group that has taken to patrolling the Duncan highway corridor. (submitted)

Editorial: New safety office to tackle Duncan corridor crime just the beginning

Duncan is facing a problem like no other in its history.

We hope a new partnership between the Municipality of North Cowichan and the City of Duncan can provide some real relief to people and businesses in the Trans-Canada Highway corridor. They are currently suffering due to the opioid and homeless crisis that has hit the entire area hard. Crime is up, refuse, including used needles are a blight on the streetscape, and people have had enough.

There is very real and justified worry in the city and the greater Duncan area about the increase in homelessness, drugs, and all of the problems that come with them in the last few years. There have always been homeless people in Cowichan, and there has always been drug use, but it has never been like this. Blatant drug use and its attendant crime have spread through the city like a toxic sludge with the advent of the opioid crisis.

Parents, sports teams, and other child care providers now routinely scour parks and play spaces for dirty needles before they can let their charges go forth and be kids.

People are having to lock up every spade and garden ornament, and even that’s not a guarantee against petty and not-so-petty theft.

Experience Cycling’s Will Arnold, first solo then with a group, has taken to patrolling and cleaning up the highway corridor area every day before business opens.

Now, Duncan and North Cowichan will be opening an office in the area to try to help clean things up. It’s about time. This problem needs the support of citizens and business owners, yes, but also the strength of our local governments and the RCMP. Bylaw enforcement and daytime security patrols will operate from the new safety office, we are told.

This is good news, but Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples is right that it’s just the beginning. These problems need the cooperation and attention of governments from federal to provincial to municipal. The truth is, nobody has yet figured out how to fix them, so we also need new ideas, and the courage to try them.

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