Some West Victoria Street business owners are fed up with nuisance behaviour and crime.
Some fear for their safety, while others are taking measures into their own hands.
One went to hospital, due to stress, while another has tried to find a new location. Incidents reported to this newspaper are numerous and include theft, vandalism, graffiti, arson, improperly discarded needles and syringes and drug paraphernalia, garbage, prostitution, defecation, public nudity and more.
KTW met with Coun. Bill Sarai and a group of business owners in early March, before the pandemic hit, and reconnected last week to learn the problems persist.
Here are some of their stories and clicking here will take you to a story focused on the city's response to the complaints.
• Reid Hamer-Jackson, owner of Tru Market at 260 West Victoria St., hasn’t been sleeping and his wife is worried. Property crime keeps him up at night. Hamer-Jackson said he has spent “thousands and thousands” of dollars as a result of damage to and theft from his property.
“The other night, I had 120 clips — 30-second clips — from 12:30 at night to 4:30 in the morning,” Hamer-Jackson said. “What happens is, it’s a motion thing. My camera goes off and it goes ‘beep, beep.’ It takes a 30-second clip, it goes to my phone. … I can’t sleep. I’m not just going to let them. They’ve already stolen enough money from me.”
Hamer-Jackson has scoured pawn shops searching for merchandise stolen from his shop. One set of batteries has been stolen multiple times, tracked down by him multiple times and repurchased by him multiple times. His insurance fees are so high he foots the bill when someone kicks in the door of his business.
At one point, someone stole a vehicle off his lot, but Hamer-Jackson managed to track it down in another community. He watches over his neighbour’s property, where fires have been popping up, and worries for their safety, in addition to that of his staff.
“I can’t leave her alone here,” he said.
• Andre Giasson, owner of Andre’s Tire World at 341 West Victoria St., has been pushed to the limits of his patience and compassion.
After 25 years of business in the area, Giasson said the “nightmares” have become so bad that he has taken matters into his own hands.
Two years ago, someone tragically overdosed behind his building and died. Since then, the situation has not improved and Giasson’s frustration shows. On one occasion, he resorted to throwing personal belongings left on his property into the garbage.
“Not only were they living there, they were crapping there and everything,” Giasson said. “Christ. It was just like a zoo in there. They’ve got paper, garbage, everything. You should see the back. We went in there, I took two, three of my guys, we cleaned everything up, we put it all in big garbage bags. We cleaned the whole thing up. I have tons of graffiti at the back of my building. I have to repaint my whole building.”
• Mindy Sandhu and Nina Johal, co-owners of Stereo Warehouse and Sister Sleep Gallery at 198 West Victoria St., are concerned about safety.
Their customers have found improperly discarded needles and syringes on the sidewalk. Drugs have been discovered hidden beneath landscape fabric in front of their business. Fires have been lit outside their building on multiple occasions, including near the gas meter.
On one occasion, somebody walked into the store and exposed their privates to one of the owners, who was working alone, and a customer.
“Without a word of a lie — I don’t have a picture of this because I don’t have a cellphone — his pants are right to his knees and he doesn’t have underwear,” Johal said. “Now, I can see his ass. The girl, that’s my customer, I said, ‘I’m sorry I’m exposing you to this.’ She said, ‘No, it’s not your fault.’ She goes, ‘I think you should go get some help.’ She said, ‘I’m OK, I’ll wait.’
“He still continues wandering around in the store. His pants came down again, still walking almost naked … I didn’t feel safe.”
Before the pandemic, Sandhu went to hospital due to stress from problems in the area.
She has done business there for 40 years.
“This is not just work, this is our home,” she said. “Imagine somebody walking through your front door because it’s open.”
• Audra Domich, owner of Audra’s Image and Wellness Day Spa at 280 West Victoria St., has upgraded her surveillance system three times, but it doesn’t help.
On one occasion, she was at lunch at a restaurant when she received video notification on her phone of a man sitting near her business, trimming his toenails.
“I’m like, whatever, he’s trimming his toenails. He’ll leave in a minute, no worries,” Domich said. She received another video notification on her phone, one that showed a woman arrive and begin performing fellatio on the man.
“So I say, ‘Get the f— out of here.’ It’s two o’clock in the afternoon, I’m having lunch at Milestones. ‘Get the f— out of here!’ And she didn’t stop. And he said, ‘Just a minute.’”
The man then paid the woman with a plastic baggie and she left.
“He did up his pants, he sat back down and kept trimming his toenails,” Domich said.
She said people walk into her spa to take candy on the counter while she is giving spa treatments and someone once threw a rock at her vehicle.
Domich worries about safety and the impact on her business.
“I have been living in fear,” she said. “I tried to move my salon. There isn’t anything to move to. Trust me, I have tried.”
• Colin Noble, who operated Sunlife Financial for about a decade and still owns the building at 280 West Victoria St., doesn’t want the area to be labelled a “bad neighbourhood.”
In fact, Noble believes the area has improved, telling KTW he hasn’t cleaned up graffiti in multiple years after a bus stop was moved away from his building and lighting increased.
Noble hopes new landscaping, part of the West Victoria Street project, will further improve the area.