Editor, The Record:
Having lived in Mission for a number of years and speaking with many people on the subject of our downtown core and its regeneration, a repeating theme rears its head.
The majority of people I have spoken with have commented upon the less than welcoming atmosphere they apparently experience on First Avenue, North Railway Avenue and Second Avenue, respectively.
Folks raise issues such as panhandlers, drunks, people apparently under the influence of other substances, speeding vehicles, etc. All this despite the best efforts of our local businesses to cater to the public’s needs and wishes.
It is indeed sometimes hard to walk along the Horne Street end of First Avenue in particular without making way for apparently inebriated individuals or groups who seem unable to speak without shouting and using profanity between one another or directing a general air of belligerence at passersby.
I’m sure many people reading this will understand the issue I raise. This, bear in mind, is in broad daylight when the street is filled with shoppers. The atmosphere in the evening or at night changes for the worse, and the downtown core can seem outright threatening.
Our downtown shops should not be places which anyone feels they need to take refuge within, or pop into and out of as fast as possible. Right now it is my perception that the core is on a slippery slope and it is time to do something.
This is not a call to exclude people, but it is a call to exclude certain behaviour. Those who refuse to behave in a civil, socially responsible way in our streets choose to exclude themselves — hence a justice system and the rule of law. Mission residents deserve a more visible policing presence in our downtown area.
As a person with an extensive background in policing, I understand the RCMP are busy, but at the same time I find it hard to believe that creating the kind of atmosphere we would enjoy in our downtown core is not a priority. What is policing if not the establishment and maintenance of a calm, relaxed and above all, safe society?
How is this achieved? It is, in my experience of doing so, quite simple. Let’s ask our erstwhile officers to occasionally — let’s say once or twice a day, for example — get out of their cruisers and walk the length of First Avenue between Grand and Horne, and again between the Cedar Connector and Grand.
I know that for operational reasons such a strategy will be difficult to achieve with 100 per cent reliability, but right now any police patrol presence on our sidewalks, in our stores and most importantly in our consciousness would be a huge leap forward.