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 bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich residents warned to watch livestock after bear kills llama

Officers with Conservation, Saanich police could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

A 23-foot sailboat that broke free from its anchor was smashed against Cattle Point during the early October south-easterly storms. (Ron Geezin Photo)
Storm-smashed boat pulled off rocks of Cattle Point in Oak Bay

Sailboat a casualty of last week’s big storms

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

More than 250 riders took part in the fifth annual Tripleshot CrossFondo, which riders across parts of the Saanich Peninsula, including this field near Sluggett Farms. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Tripleshot CrossFondo rides across Saanich Peninsula

More than 250 cyclists took part in mystery-course race

City of Victoria crews will soon be gathering up fallen leaves in neighbourhoods and city parks. First up on the pickup list are the James Bay, Fairfield, Rockland, Gonzales and South Jubilee neighbourhoods, starting Oct. 19. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Victoria city leaf pickup a sure sign of fall

Residential pickup begins Oct. 19, drop-offs can happen anytime at city yard

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Steven Michael Bacon pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder of Nanaimo teen Makayla Chang. (Photos submitted)
Accused pleads not guilty in Nanaimo teen’s 2017 murder

Steven Bacon appeared in Nanaimo court Monday via video link from Thunder Bay

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read