The amount of illegal activity along 20th Street in Courtenay, B.C. has neighbours at their wits’ end.
Police cruisers are as common as pick-up trucks along the stretch of road from Willemar Avenue to Lambert Drive in the Vancouver Island community. Much of the attention surrounds a pair of 20th Street houses, owned by the same landlord.
Residents in the neighbourhood have taken to contacting media sources to express their frustrations.
(Due to safety concerns, only first names are used in the article.)
Anne and her husband live on the southwest end of 20th Street, near Lambert Drive.
She said when they first moved to the neighbourhood, it was quiet.
“We could see that there were people hanging around, even back then, but it never really bothered us,” she said. “Over the course of a couple of years, we realized that our neighbour, who lives right behind us, had dealings with that house too. There were people going back and forth, from her house. That’s when it started impacting us. We would have bike bandits, dropping off bikes, people yelling in the back yard, talking about crack cocaine, eight-balls, all that stuff.”
Anne installed outdoor lighting on their property, put in cameras and an alarm system, and “hoped for the best.”
Things only deteriorated.
By 2016, they started talking to neighbours about starting up a block watch program.
Anne said that although a few people have helped out with the block watch program, it can get uncomfortable at times.
“I have felt threatened,” she said. “I can’t even have my grandchildren come and stay with me. I won’t allow it… because of what is going on.”
She has found a discarded hypodermic needle on her lawn, and has seen one person having a seizure on the street.
“It’s just disgusting,” she said. “When you live in close proximity to drug addicts, you hear a lot of disgusting sounds. We hear them almost every day.
“We had a police cruiser sitting outside our house again last night. It’s so regular now, we don’t even think about it.”
When asked whether she and her husband have considered moving away from the neighbourhood, she was candid.
The homeowner, Amandio Santos, has applied to the City of Courtenay for rezoning of the property at 2310-20 Street.
The plan, according to the filed application, is to extensively renovate the existing structure, add a second structure, then sell off the subdivided property as two separate lots. As confirmed by Tatsuyuki Setta, City of Courtenay manager of planning, the renovations must be completed before the lots are put up for sale.
The Record has obtained documents filed with the City, wherein Santos acknowledges the problems in the residence. He is suggesting that by granting his application, it would put an end to the problems surrounding the property.
According to the filed documents, “the owner has taken steps to clean up the exterior of the property. He has also taken steps to evict at least one of the more troublesome tenants, although this is a very tedious and involved process when dealing through the provincial Residential Tenancy Branch with uncooperative tenants.
“As has been stated to the neighbours, we believe the fastest way to full resolution of current tenancy issues is to expedite the Zoning Amendment and DVP approval, to facilitate the subdivision, and the renovation and sale of the existing house, all in a timely manner. In fact, Mr. Santos is prepared to commit to initiating termination of the current tenancies and preparation of a Building Permit Application for the renovations to the existing house as soon as the zoning is amended and the DVP (development variance permit)is approved.”
(Efforts to contact Santos by phone on June 7, 8 and 9 went straight to his voicemail box, which was full to capacity. On June 12, a message was left on the voicemail box. A text message was also sent. The Record received no reply by press time.)
Kristen has lived in the Martin Park neighbourhood of Courtenay for two years now. She has a clear view of the other notorious 20th Street house, regularly visited by police. On Sunday, June 3, there was a police stand-off, as several RCMP officers attended the house, while an arrest warrant was executed.
Kristen said the activity surrounding the house is constant, and some days are worse than others.
|A man is taken away in handcuffs from the home on the 1600 block of 20th Street, Monday, after a police raid led to four arrests. Photo supplied|
“Some days are … crazy,” she said. “Last weekend (June 2-3) I think the cops were present maybe about five times. There were three cop cars there last night. There was one there this morning. There are cops present there probably, I would say, six days out of the week. Whether it’s a drive-by, or they park, or are actually on the property… they are there a lot.”
Kristen said she is concerned for her safety. The mother of three said she has had threats on her life.
“What scares me most is that my daughters’ bedrooms are on that side of the house. Let’s say they [tenants] get high and want to shoot somebody… what happens if I go to sleep at night and I wake up the next morning and my kid’s got a stray bullet in her?
“I’m ready to give notice. I’ve looked online. I’m really fortunate. I pay $1,500 for a four-bedroom but I’m willing to pay more to get the hell out of there and be safe.
“I’m coming forward because I want attention brought to it. And I want the landlord to be held responsible for what he is doing there.”
Another four arrests were made at the house on the 1600 block Monday, June 11.
Police understand the frustration expressed by residents, and are doing what they can to alleviate the problem, but there is a process that must be followed.
“The police are attending these houses on a regular basis and investigations are being, and have been conducted by members of the Comox Valley RCMP,” said Const. Monika Terragni, media relations spokesperson for the Comox Valley RCMP.
“Often, these houses are ‘flop’ houses where community members with addiction issues gravitate, causing social issues that fall into our laps and impact the neighbours. The Comox Valley RCMP [is] working within the framework of the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to address the issues at these residences. When police attend these residences and find evidence that an offence has been committed, it is investigated, charges are recommended and it goes to court.
“If anyone in the area observes anything suspicious, please continue calling the police. The police investigate all allegations of suspicious activity and will follow up with the caller.”
When it comes to the social aspect of the situation, however, the RCMP has no jurisdiction.
“The police do not have the authority to evict someone from their residence,” Terragni added.