More security coming to downtown St. John's, says safety coalition (2024)

More security coming to downtown St. John's, says safety coalition (1)

George Street in St. John's is the centre for nightlife in the city, and one of the main areas of concern for the Downtown Safety Coalition. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

More security is coming to downtown St. John's, says safety coalition spokesperson Don-E Coady.

Last summer, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the city of St. John's announced $180,000 in funding to support theDowntown Safety Coalition, made up ofthe Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, Downtown St. John's, the George Street Association, Destination St. John's, Hospitality N.L.,the provincial government and the city itself.

Coady told CBC Newsthere havebeen improvements since the announcement, withan increase in private security that will be expanded again this summer.

Coadysaidfundingsupported the contracting of Independent Security Services through a three-phase plan.

Phase 1 involved adding secutiryon George Street betweenJuly and November. Phase Two expanded the footprint to include Duckworth Street and Water Street. Thatfootprint has been approved for thissummer season and forPhase Three.

Coady said reports from the first two phasesshow an improvement in downtown safety and prevention efforts.

Nightlife dangers

St. John's musician Rowan Sherlock noticed some positive changes since the coalition added morelighting on George Street with more private security on patrol of the famous party street.

"That's been definitely a big plus for us," said Sherlock.

Heading into the busy summer season, Sherlock saidthe coalition needs to continue what they are doing.

He said musicians faced many dangers a couple years ago,includingstolen instruments, being followedand random attacks.

"It all kind of happened around a clustered time. So it started to become quite a concern for us," said Sherlock.

More security coming to downtown St. John's, says safety coalition (2)

This axe was used to smash through the shatter-proof glass at Natural Boutique last year. (Natural Boutique/Facebook)

Despite the coalition's efforts, he has not seen total improvement in the area. He says there ismore aggressive panhandling on George Street.

"They're content to be quite pushy," said Sherlock."You really can't walk from one end of George Street to the other without being, you know, confronted by somebody."

Preventing thefts

Last year, the Natural Boutique on Water Street had its window smashed and merchandise stolen, costing the business $40,000.

The store's owner, Jen Shears, said that despite the efforts from the coalition, break-ins are still happening.

She changedthe store'slocks and windows, and implementeda "buzz-in" system, to manage who comes in and out of the store.

"It kind of breaks my heart to have to do that. It's probably the toughest call that we've ever needed to make as business owners in terms of who we let in," saidShears.

More security coming to downtown St. John's, says safety coalition (3)

RNC Const. James Cadigan says it's important for the public to report crimes to the police. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

However, while these changes have improved the situation, shesaida stronger security presence on the street is needed.

"More security presence is certainly important because I don't think these people wouldwalk in and break into places if there were obvious patrols at every corner," said Shears.

See it, say it

RNC Const. James Cadigansaidthe RNC sits on the coalition and provides input, but does not receive funding.

Cadigan saidthe most important thing for the public to dois to report any suspicious activity. He saidthere havebeen instances of dangerous events occurring and only being shared on social media, not reported to the RNC.

Last year, Mayor Danny Breen said $80,000 from the coalition's funding will go towarda "see it, say it campaign" to make it easier to report crime in the area.

Cadigan said theRNC started promoting reporting to the police last year.

"We did see a growth in reporting and as a result," said Cadigan, "We were able to detect some behaviours that, you know, were essentially provided with intervention."

Recognizing that not everyone wants to be involved in a police investigation, Cadigan saidpeople can reportanonymously to the police.

Addressing addictions, mental health

Last year, Lisa Faye from the St. John's Status of Women Council said she would rather see the funding toward the Downtown Safety Coalition go toward poverty reduction rather than policing.

"When people have a place to call home, when people have a safe roof over their head where they can sleep well at night, that makes a change in everyone's lives," Faye told CBC News at the time.

Both Sherlock and Shears also say that the problemcomes down to addressing mental health and addictions.

"Everyone knows that it goes deeper than just the desire to steal,"said Shears."Certainly mental health andaddiction treatment needs to be more at the forefront in our society."

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More security coming to downtown St. John's, says safety coalition (2024)

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