Pubdate: Wed, 07 Jul 2004
Source: Whitehorse Star (CN YK)
Copyright: 2004 Whitehorse Star
Author: Sarah Elizabeth Brown


A downtown resident's concern about traffic coming to and from a
nearby drug trafficker's home base has prompted the constituency's MLA
to call a public meeting to see what the community can do.

Todd Hardy, territorial representative for the downtown riding, as
well as the Yukon NDP leader, is in the planning stages for a July 28
open discussion at the Whitehorse Public Library.

A woman who lives in the downtown area said she approached Hardy a
couple of weeks ago because she's fed up with incessant noise 24 hours
a day after two houses where drugs are sold cropped up in her area

"It's not only motor vehicle traffic, it's foot traffic -- a lot of
people walking by screaming, swearing at all hours," the woman said,
who fears repercussions if her name is printed. "It doesn't matter if
it's 3 a.m., 5 a.m., 7 p.m. or noon. It is incredible, people on
bicycles, motorcycles, cabs. You name it, they're coming and going."

While she's seen some people under the influence of drugs after they
leave the drug houses, the resident is more concerned about the
constant noise, traffic and the incredible number of used needles
littering the ground.

"Every time I walk my dog, every time I step outside of my yard," the
woman said of how often she sees spent syringes underfoot.

"They're everywhere -- they're in the cemetery, along the clay banks,
on all walking paths. I worry for my safety and the safety of other
people and children because you don't know what kind of state
somebody's going to be in after they've shot up their drugs and if
they're hanging out in the bushes or in the alleys at all hours."

Despite the magnitude of the problem, the resident holds out hope for
the situation to improve.

"I do believe in our system and I'm trying to find out what can be
done. Obviously there's a problem somewhere now that dealers are
operating with carte blanche and I want to find out why the police
feel their hands are tied, what needs to be changed."

She said she'd also like to see pressure put on landlords who rent to
known drug dealers.

"It's not OK," she said. "They can't just wash their hands of the
problem and say, 'I get the rent every month. It's not my problem.'
Yes, everyone is morally responsible if they're renting to a known
drug dealer."

She's spoken with many other area residents who are concerned too, she
said, noting others have said the noise makes sleeping difficult and
that they've called the police before.

"This meeting is so that there's a co-ordinated effort, not
higgledy-piggledy, everyone calls the cops to whine and it gets
brushed off."

She's seen RCMP officers patrol around the block after a complaint is
made, but it's not part of a larger, planned effort, she said.

"And the police need to know people are behind them," she said.
"Sometimes they don't know how much support they have."

Hardy said he's spoken briefly with the RCMP's drug enforcement
division, and he plans to invite the police, the city, territorial
government, youth and seniors' groups to the meeting late this month.

The police or the government can't solve this sort of problem alone,
said Hardy, noting it will take a united effort to chase out drugs and
their dealers.

The public meeting will be a chance for people to discuss the problem,
talk about possible solutions and learn what's been done in other places.

The downtown of Whitehorse is the Yukon's only urban riding, noted
Hardy, and planning in the downtown core must be approached with that
in mind.

Downtown is a gathering point for business, social activities and the
home for many residents, but it's also a gathering place for social
problems such as drugs.

"It's a very active place, but we also have a crime and drug problem,"
Hardy said.

It's easy to plan "the good stuff" such as buildings and positive
growth, but at the same time, plans must be put in place to deal with
the sort of problems all urban centres in Canada face, he continued.

Drugs and drug houses were a problem when he was first elected in
1996, said Hardy, but since then he's noticed a substantial change.
"It is getting worse, there's no question about it."

Drugs are a seeping, insidious problem that affect everyone, not just
those who happen to live a short distance from residences where drugs
are being sold, the constituent said.

"Even the people in the fancy suburbs, if they think it's not their
problem, if we allow the drug culture to grow (downtown), it will seep
into Granger, Copper Ridge. The poison spreads." 
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