Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Podunk Below the Masthead (Wednesday, May 5, 2010)

Some pressure begins to mount on council as local residents express concerns over public safety in the city, the state of the downtown core is also on our minds these days it seems and the Airport explains its fire and emergency protection plans in the wake of the sale of the airport fire engine, some of the items of interest on the Wednesday news cycle.

Daily News, Front page, headline story
CITY'S SAFETY QUESTIONED - ACTION PLAN REQUIRED SAYS PAGE-- The Daily uses the front page of Wednesday's paper to examine questions of policing and public safety in the city, with local residents calling on City Council to show some leadership on the issue. During the course of the story, George T. Baker (perhaps having learned of some concerns from the forums of hackingthemainframe or from our blog posting of overnight on Sunday)   makes mention of the city's recent low placing in the Moneysense survey on most liveable cities which highlighted among other concerns crime.

The Airport has sold its fire truck and now is relying on the response of Prince Rupert Fire Rescue for any potential emergency situations at the airport, a situation that would require at least a half hours lead time for the Fire Department to make the necessary travel arrangements to the Digby Island airport. Wednesday's paper provides the view of the airport on what may be a change of some concern for some who fly in and out of the Prince Rupert Airport.

The local SPCA always looking for innovative ways of fund raising in the community is making plans for a pub night in the city, with the Commercial Hotel hosting the event on May 15th. It's hoped that the proceeds from the night will help the local group as they battle their 100,000 dollar shortfall.

The Sports section features a look at the upcoming Glory Days run in the city on Saturday and some disappointing registration numbers for the Mr. and Mrs. Golf tournament at the Centennial Golf course this weekend.

(Daily News Archives for Wednesday, May 5, 2010)

City’s safety questioned — action plan required says Page
Airport fire truck sold to Alberta
SPCA plans pub fundraiser
History over a cup of coffee
A grave situation — but also a clean-up

The Northern View
No new items were posted to the Northern View site for Wednesday

CFTK TV 7 News
Residents grow tired of dirty storefronts -- More trouble for city council as local residents apparently weary at the deteriorating condition of their city seek some action from their council on the issue of downtown storefronts (see article here)

CBC News British Colubmia, Daybreak North
No new items were posted to the CBC site for Wednesday

Daybreak North is only posting selected items on their website now. The most recently posted items can be found on the archive page for Daybreak North click here

The Daily News Front page, headline story
City’s safety questioned — action plan required says Page
By George T. Baker
Staff Writer
Prince Rupert Daily News
Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Public safety continues to be of major concern for locals who say it is time for the Prince Rupert community – including City Council – to show some leadership on the issue.

Recent threats to child safety, the continuance of vandalism in along Third Ave. West and the tragic death of a local teen has led Rupertites to begin questioning how safe their community is and what they can do to help make it safer.

In response, one business owner has asked city council to do more, while a local resident is asking adults to take more responsibility with a Block Watch program.

Loaded Sports shop owner Marc Page said he holds Prince Rupert’s city council liable for the continual vandalism his store and others face on the venerable downtown market avenue.

Page spoke earnestly and directly to city council at the last council meeting on April 26. He said that while he recognized the amount of volunteer work put in by individual councillors for the community, they have yet to perform a visible united front against crime issues in the City.

 “They must take more responsibility for public safety and they must ensure that the police are doing their jobs,” said Page.

Many in the community consider Page as a role model for youth in Prince Rupert. His skateboard boutique is often the centre of teenager activity and shopping, and Page holds both skateboard and snowboard competitions for youth throughout the year.

He intimately knows the challenges youth face in the city and recognized that city council can’t fix social ills all on their own. Still, Page wanted to know that council was going to be more active in finding solutions and that they would hold local police more accountable for the service they provide to the city.

Page said that he believed adults were not paying enough attention to Prince Rupert’s youth, who he said because they don’t vote, already have a marginalized voice in city politics.

 “The city council has done some good, but youth in this town have nothing [from city council] – they cut library hours, and raised fees at the civic centre. We need extra-curricular activity for them. I know I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without that activity,” said Page.

Even though the City’s Quality of Life Official Community Plan, which was passed in February 2008, defines public safety and freedom as part of the “Essential Quality of Life Attributes”, there is evidence that all is not well on the city streets.

Page’s outlined concerns come after a month of various incidents. Three child abduction attempts in the McKay St.-Kootenay Ave. area remained unsolved. The death of teenager Emmalee McLean is still shrouded in mystery. A man suffering from schizophrenia went on an erratic vandalism rampage down Third Ave. West and a fire caused by arson took the homes of 12 locals living at the former Epicurean building.

RCMP sent 94 reports to Crown Counsel recommending charges against youth in Prince Rupert in 2009; crown went ahead with 79 of those.

The majority of them are for breaching bail or probation orders.

There were 301 incidents where a youth could have been charged but charges were not laid.

According to local RCMP, a lot of these incidences involved youth being intoxicated, causing a disturbance, mischief and theft. There were 43 incidences were youth were suspects, but not enough evidence available to recommend a charge.

There were 130 youth victims in 2009. The vast majority were victims of assault and sexual assault.

It is under the auspices of anecdotal and statistical evidence that the city’s residents feel their city is not safe enough for youth or adults.

And if locals believe they are alone in this perception they aren’t. In a recent ranking of the top 179 Canadian cities with more than 10,000 people, MoneySense – an online magazine based out of Ontario – ranked Prince Rupert in the bottom 10 cities to live in – number 173.

According to MoneySense’s data manager Phil Froats, cities such as Prince Rupert are ranked low because of high unemployment, low average household income, negative population growth rates, a dismal culture industry and, for the most part, high crime.

Froats believed that Prince Rupert, at 173, had seen its fortunes decline thanks to its under-used port – though the port did see a record setting first quarter this year, jumping 86 per cent from 2009.

Perhaps most telling is that when it came to Crime Rate ranking, Prince Rupert was 174, Violent Crime Rate ranking 177, and Crime Severity Rate ranking 174.

Mayor Jack Mussallem told Page at the city council meeting that the City had requested another judge for the community and asked the RCMP to begin bike patrols downtown. There is also the Citizens on Patrol program, which had held two meetings. The first meeting was well attended by the public; the second one was poorly attended. According to Mussallem, there are 14 volunteers following the two information sessions.

And not all residents fear for their lives nor think the City is as unsafe as it is portrayed.

Students enrolled at the Northwest Community College Applied Ecology Course told the Daily News that they were entirely happy living in Prince Rupert. And more to that, they said, they hope for more rankings like MoneySense’s.

“It means we can have the whole city to ourselves,” said Derek Hogan.

 Hogan along with Bond Jonas believed they are safe in the city.

“Compared to big cities, this is a fairly safe community,” said Jonas, a female college student.

 “There is no place in this city that I feel afraid of.” Hogan, a tall, young and male college student concurred, and added that he’s walked the streets of Prince Rupert late at night without much worry.

“I have never been in any danger since I moved here in September,” he said.

Then there are those who believe that something needs to be done for the love of their community, which they cherish. Wendy Wozniak said she’d seen enough of the trouble around town.

She set up a meeting at Roosevelt Park Elementary this Thursday (6:30 p.m.) to discuss a Block Watch Program for the McKay-Kootenay area.

 “Our kids are in trouble and they need help. It’s up to our adults to do something,” said Wozniak.

 She added that she was driven to hold the program meeting because of the child abduction attempts and the loose wild animals roaming in the city.

 “The abduction attempts really affected me. One of the girls (a potential victim) is my girlfriend’s daughter. People’s awareness is really heightened right now,” explained Wozniak.

Addressing safety issues at the meeting will be RCMP Victims Services coordinator Marlene Swift and a member of the local police. Wozniak hoped that members of City Council would also be on hand to listen to the social problems the city faces.

At the previous council meeting, city councillors commended Page for his comments, and asked him to continue being a role model. They also asked him to help come up with solutions to the youth crime issues in town.

Page, however, saw that as not being effective.

 “They say that I need to set up the committee, that I need to be a role model. But that is just passing the buck to me.

“For the general public it is easy to turn a blind eye to all of this, but once you are affected by the issue your perception changes pretty quickly,” he said.

Loaded has suffered one break and enter and four window breaks at its location in the past year. The windows alone cost $1,000 to replace, but because they also showcase clothing, those items become lost items, and the cost is bumped to $2,000-$3,000.

 “That’s $4,000 to $6,000 per year just to pay for broken windows. And that is just me and not everyone else [on Third Ave. West].”

 Page did offer up his own set of solutions. He would like to see a Drug and Alcohol Centre in town that is visible so that youth know they don’t want to end up there.

He wanted to see a crime detention centre in town for crimes lasting 30 days or less.

 He also wanted to see police officers on their bikes at night and more officers working at night than during the day.

“The council also needs to be more active on the issues of substance abuse, teenager pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, child abuse and physical abuse,” reinforced Page.

He also called on local judges to do more about sentences on petty crime, claiming that the current justice system allowed teenagers off the hook far too easily.

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