VICTORIA -- Homeless campers who have set up tents in Centennial Square are being told to pack up and get ready to move in a few days.

Bylaw officers were seen walking through the area on Saturday morning, speaking to people staying in the tents.

CTV News Vancouver Island confirmed with City of Victoria staff that an order has been made to close select areas of Centennial Square, meaning people sheltering in those spaces must relocate on Tuesday.

The decision was made on Friday and the order is from the city’s Director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities.

“We recognize every person has the right to shelter and that COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges faced by vulnerable populations,” said city spokesperson Sheldon Johnson. “However, Centennial Square has become entrenched with a criminal element that demands greater action to protect the public, businesses and those seeking shelter.”

On Wednesday, Victoria police said five people were arrested and 12 people were still at large following an undercover drug-trafficking investigation in Centennial Square.

Two stabbings have occurred in the square in recent weeks, and there have been multiple assaults there as well. A window at city hall – which abuts the square – was shot and broken by a compressed air gun.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said in a statement that she was grateful that the police department was taking a proactive approach to crime in Centennial Square.

“I’m glad the police are cracking down on criminal activity and drug trafficking,” she said.

“Unlike poverty, these are criminal offences and should be dealt with in a proactive manner as VicPD (has) done in this instance. I appreciate their diligence and hard work.”

On Tuesday, police issued a public alert after a city worker found an uncapped hypodermic needle taped to a park bench beside city hall.

Johnson said the order is through the Parks Regulation Bylaws that allow the closure of parks and open spaces where hazardous conditions exist.

After Tuesday, the area will be cleaned and remediation, including landscape restoration, will take place.