RCMP say spike in crime linked to tent city in provincial park
A campground patron leaves Goldstream Campground as the provincial government assesses the situation with former Tent City residents who are living at the campground in Langford, B.C., on Thursday, September 20, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Tent city campers who moved to a provincial park in Langford have been permitted to stay indefinitely, but the city's mayor and police chief say their presence has led to a spike in criminal activity.
Mounties say they have detailed an extensive log of complaints and calls for service linked to the tent city at Goldstream Provincial Park since campers moved there Tuesday.
That includes four calls Wednesday night for a report of a break and enter attempt at a house near the park, an outstanding warrant, theft of firewood and open drug use.
Park rangers have also received reports from campers not associated to the tent city group, including theft from other campsites, damage to the park's gate and more complaints of drug use in public washrooms, according to Mounties.
"It's a little bit frustrating. It's not that it makes me mad, because there also is people in there not on their own terms, but for the people making decisions to put themselves there, it's a little bit frustrating," said neighbour Lucas Crowther. "Especially to be living here my whole life, this is my daily walk and all of a sudden I'm being told that I can't."
But others say the issue of homelessness runs deeper than just Goldstream Park.
"I can feel for somebody trying to find a place to live. It is very hard here," said a neighbour walking his dog in the area. "That's a big issue."
In a Friday news release, the officer in charge of the West Shore RCMP detachment said an early morning sweep of the camp turned up several needles strewn on the ground, including an uncapped syringe.
"Members spoke with camp leader, Ms. Brett and advised her that open drug use and negligence by having open needles around a campground was clearly not acceptable as there could be children or pets sharing this same space," Insp. Todd Preston said.
"She stated she agreed and her campers had picked up all of the needles at 18:30 hours the night before. She stated she would immediately have others clean up the site and pick up all of the remaining open and unopened needles that they could find."
He said Mounties would be increasing patrols in the park, and working with BC Parks staff to enforce park rules and regulations.
Langford Mayor Stew Young released his own statement Friday calling on the provincial government to establish a task force to provide 24-hour care and on-site services for the group.
Members of the tent city, who were evicted from two separate parks in Saanich within a week, say their goal has always been to bring attention to the lack of housing for those in need.
Campers were initially told they had to leave when Mounties shut down access to the park earlier this week.
The provincial government has since clarified there is no deadline for them to leave as it looks into housing options for the group.