Residents of Guelph's Ward 2 say that increasing crime in their neighbourhood has them worried.
“Right now, you don’t feel safe in your own homes,” said Ward 2 councillor James Gordon, who organized a town hall meeting at the Evergreen Seniors Community Centre with fellow Ward 2 councillor Andy Van Hellemond on Thursday night.
Roughly 80 people attended the meeting, put together after resident's expressed concerns to their councillors.
Guelph Police Sgt. Arif Hasham, who focuses on community liaison, was on hand to answer questions and offer suggestions.
“We’re seeing an increase in the frequency of these incidents but it’s also becoming a bit more brazen, is that right?” Gordon asked those gathered, to which several responded that it was becoming more “aggressive.”
“Things are happening in the middle of the day that weren’t happening before,” Gordon said.
Sgt. Hasham told the crowd that the police service realizes that the downtown core is its own distinct neighbourhood with some distinct issues, but said that many of the issues Ward 2 residents are facing are also being faced in other parts of the city.
“We’re experiencing it in other neighbourhoods as well. It’s not a Ward 2 issue only. It’s happening all over,” he said.
Increased bicycle patrols and having an increased police presence “will deter some of these things from happening,” Hasham said.
Gordon said that residents of the neighbourhood are looking “for ways - tools - to support what police are doing.”
Security lighting, locked doors, not having bushes near doorways, making sure that police are notified were some of the basic things Hasham mentioned.
Signing up for the neighbourhood watch program through the Guelph Police web site was another thing mentioned, as was an upcoming bicycle registry.
“A lot of these criminals are kind of lazy. They’re looking for the easy way,” said Hasham of preventative measures.
Van Hellemond said increased lighting on the trails along the river is something that would help deter illegal activity in that area.
More city support for increased policing was one of the suggestions from the audience, who also had concerns about the reactive nature of the discussion rather than a more proactive approach.
“It’s bizarre we’re thinking like this,” one man said after a discussion about security lighting. “I’m not interested in making my house a fortress.”
One woman said she had been robbed twice in the past 10 days. Another man said he had a propane line severed and fed into his basement with the gas turned on.
People expressed concern about crime they feel is connected to Wyndham House, the youth shelter just north of Downtown Guelph.
Others talked of the connection with the city’s “drug use culture” and how it is connected to the crime that occurs.
“Is something happening that’s attracting more people into the drug culture?” asked one woman, who wasn't overly sensitive in her description of what she sees happening.
“They’re like cockroaches, or something. You kill one and a whole bunch more come in,” she continued.
She said it feels like Guelph is becoming “the drug capital of Ontario.”
Hasham assured her that other municipalities are experiencing the same issues.
“It’s not a Guelph issue and we’re not attracting” people in the drug culture, he said.
“Are they dangerous? How many are there?” one man asked.
Gordon reminded those in the room that there are also big picture issues at play in regards to dealing with mental health issues and addiction.
“It’s their city too,” Gordon said.