Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. (rickcollinsphotography.com)                                Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. (rickcollinsphotography.com)

Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. (rickcollinsphotography.com) Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. (rickcollinsphotography.com)

COLUMN: Taking needed steps to ensure downtown Victoria is safe

Jeff Bray

Downtown Victoria Business Association

Is downtown Victoria safe?

In a word; yes. However, there has been a significant amount of attention over the last several months regarding street-level activity throughout downtown. This leads to comments such as, “I never go downtown anymore” or “I would never let my teenager go downtown.” Perception is reality, and I hope we can have honest conversations about the reality.

As with any downtown, we have issues in Victoria’s core. The congregation of our marginalized population accessing services downtown has an impact. Visually, it can make an area appear unwelcoming. The increase in theft and break-ins among underground parkades and retail businesses is concerning, as is the increased open drug use and after-effects witnessed in various blocks and public spaces.

These issues impact public perception, employee safety, and a business owner’s ability to make a living. Identifying impacts is not about making people wrong or criminalizing addiction, mental health or homelessness. It is about asking: “Do we as an entire community think the status quo is acceptable?”

READ ALSO: Experience all downtown Victoria has to offer

In other cities, people avoid speaking up or suggesting solutions for fear of being labelled as greedy, privileged, or lacking in humanity. The result has been parts of neighbourhoods turning into encampments where drugs and crime run unabated. Seattle and San Francisco in the U.S., Abbotsford and Maple Ridge on the mainland, and Nanaimo just to our north are experiencing this right now. Fortunately, there are opportunities to ensure that Victoria does not follow the same trajectory.

First, let’s find common ground on behaviours we agree are unacceptable and seek accountability and enforcement of those behaviours. This includes properly funding the Victoria Police Department and City of Victoria bylaw services to support businesses and residents with the issues they face.

Second, we need to demand the provincial government fund the necessary support services. The province stepped up with housing funding, but the success of that housing relies on the availability of wrap-around services to those in need.

Third, we need to decentralize services so those currently accessing support downtown can receive the help they need closer to home. Reducing the congregation of people at any one facility will improve both the perception of safety downtown and the experience of those using and providing the services.

Finally, we need to examine whether our community-based approach to mental health and addictions is meeting the needs of all affected. The mayor of Nanaimo, where these issues are significant, recently openly questioned whether congregate care might not be better for those with the most severe needs. It takes leadership to ask that question and it will take courage to answer it. But for our community members suffering on our streets, it may be unforgivable if we don’t try.

Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association

City of VictoriaVictoria

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Realty/Submitted).
Sidney calls on Victoria Airport Authority to improve design of planned warehouse

Council stops short of a definitive statement for or against proposal

The Victoria Police Department is looking for help identifying a person of interest after an April 29 hit-and-run. (VicPD handout)
Victoria police looking for suspect in hit-and-run investigation

The suspect was driving a four-door grey Dodge Ram 1500 truck

A man was arrested after allegedly threatening people downtown on May 10 while brandishing this knife. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Man armed with a knife arrested for allegedly threatening people in downtown Victoria

Officers used de-escalation techniques during afternoon arrest

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old bike rider on Vancouver Island already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Most Read