Pubdate: Tue, 13 Nov 2001
Source: Kitchener-Waterloo Record (CN ON)
Copyright: 2001 Kitchener-Waterloo Record
Author: Jeff Outhit


KITCHENER -- A downtown merchant claims drug dealers are using the chess 
tables in front of Kitchener City Hall to do business.

"If you want to buy cocaine, you go to this table. If you want to buy crack 
you go over here, and you want to buy marijuana, you go over there," said 
Craig McWhinnie of Williams Coffee Pub inside City Hall.

"Could I prove that in court? No. But this is basically what's happening 
out there. It becomes a crime mecca for the drug dealers."

He wants the outdoor chess tables removed or more police patrols to deter 
drug dealers he claims are drawn to the tables.

"The biggest problem is lack of police presence in downtown Kitchener," 
said McWhinnie.

The city installed eight chess tables and stools last year to draw people 
to Civic Square. They were recently removed for the winter.

McWhinnie said he likes the tables when they're supervised and used by 
players. There are four in front of his coffee pub during the playing season.

"Playing chess on chess tables in downtown Kitchener is absolutely 
wonderful when it's supervised," he said.

But by late afternoon the players are replaced by unsupervised "riff-raff" 
who drive away his customers, he claims. "It destroys the downtown from 
four o'clock on.''

Coun. Berry Vrbanovic would not link chess tables to crime alleged in Civic 
Square. "I don't think that's a fair correlation," he said.

But he too would like to see more police downtown. "I think that helps with 
the whole perception of safety and security.''

Other merchants expressed support for the chess tables -- while complaining 
that the downtown does not need bad news about crime.

"I'm fine with the chess tables. There are just as many positive people in 
front of my store playing chess as there is not-so-positive," said Linda Wall.

The other four chess tables are in front of Wall's Just Between Us boutique 
inside City Hall.

"There's just as many drug deals happening in downtown Waterloo as there is 
in downtown Kitchener," she said.

Marty Schreiter, general manager of the downtown business association, 
called McWhinnie a cynic for his criticism.

"The chess initiative was one of the most positive steps I've seen in 
creating an interesting learning environment between adults and young 
people," he said.

Waterloo regional police have discussed the chess tables with the city.

"Chess tables don't create problems," said Insp. Brian Doherty.

The man who organized outdoor chess matches this year rejected linking 
chess tables to crime.

"If crime is being drawn to the area, it doesn't matter whether you have 
tables there, you have benches there, or what you have. It's going to 
happen," said Albert Runstedler.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart