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Council encourages businesses to speak out about problems plaguing downtown

Council heard from another business last night frustrated with ongoing crime, homelessness and open drug use in Campbell River.

Kenya and Samantha Storfie from Spinners Sports gave a brief presentation at last night’s public meeting. Kenya said it’s frustrating to see how bad things have become, and frustrating how criminals face few consequences. She referred to an incident from several years ago when a Walmart security guard was stabbed, the recent overdose in Dairy Queen involving a 13-year-old, and another overdose incident from last month involving a teenager.

“Do we want guns, fentanyl and cocaine in our children’s play areas? Do we want 15-year-olds to be overdosing in drug houses? Do we want people committing murder essentially — unsuccessful murder — walking free because they wore a mask on video?” she said. “These are all things that are happening in our community and I’m sure plenty of people are aware of it, but nothing is happening. This is a court system thing, there’s not a lot the city can do about it, but we have to create awareness so we can create enough uproar that something happens.”

Samantha pointed out how difficult it is for people living on the streets, with services scattered around the downtown. People have to constantly be on the move, defending themselves and their belongings, while trying to survive. It’s not working for anyone, she said.

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“They are vulnerable to attacks from other addicts,” she said. “They are exposing others to fatal drugs, or may be attacked by others as they go.”

She said the city needs a location where people experiencing homelessness and addiction can go and be safe.

“Our current systems, they’re not working. They’re not working for anyone in our community. Law and order must be restored. It’s the very basis of how a society functions,” she said, breaking into tears. “Criminals must be held accountable. Mental health requires proper treatment and support. Addicts need to get off drugs and integrate back into society. The only way to do this is proper rehabilitation.”

The presentation was applauded by council and the public gallery. Councilor Doug Chapman said the more people speak out, the better it will be for the whole community. Councilor Susan Sinnott agreed and says change will only come if people keep speaking up.

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Mayor Kermit Dahl also thanked them for their presentation, and for speaking publicly.

“For years and years what’s been going on in our downtown has been accepted because nobody was standing up and saying anything,” he said. “I’ve said, until you’ve gotten the phone call at three o’clock in the morning that your front window’s been smashed in at your business, and you have to go down and figure out how you’re going to secure that building so you still have a business in the morning, you’ll never understand what it’s like to own a business in Campbell River.”

He said the issue lies with provincial and federal governments.

“We need them to quit out-funding us and start working with us,” he said.

City manager Elle Brovold says discussions are continuing with the managers of the Overdose Prevention Site at 1330 Dogwood, who are recruiting for a full-time on-site manager to provide more oversight. Numerous area businesses have asked for the site to be declared a public nuisance. Council recently removed the site’s tax exemption, but has not yet taken steps to declare it a nuisance property.

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