Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jul 2009
Source: Barrie Advance, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2009 Metroland Printing, Publishing and Distributing
Author: Laurie Watt


The violent underbelly of Barrie. The Crack Triangle.  And lewd
behaviour that has people peeing up against walls, throwing beer cans
and creating a disturbance.

It's more discouraging than ever, said downtown residents who packed
the council chambers Monday night in a neighbhourhood meeting called
to address crime after a woman was brutally beaten and raped last week
on Mary Street.

Called by downtown Coun. Jeff Lehman, the two-plus hour meeting mainly
allowed residents to vent to share their observations and their fears.

"Activities in the downtown are infiltrating into our neighbourhoods.
Three times in one week, there were drug deals going down on the
corner of Dalton and Mary," one long-time homeowner told Lehman and
police chief Wayne Frechette.

"Neighbourhood standards have gone down hill. I've lived in my
neighbourhood 24 years and I am active and law-abiding. (Crime) is
(happening) openly and blatantly. It's so sad."

Other residents attested to the prostitution near the downtown LCBO,
and drug deals in the area that includes rooming houses and hangouts
for newly-released convicts, many of whom are homeless, whose first
taste of freedom after time in the superjail in Penetanguishene is
stepping off a bus downtown Barrie.

"We call it the Crack Triangle," said another downtown resident,
highlighting the area of Mary, the Toronto (street) corner and Ross
streets. "We had a problem with a crack house next door . We're glad
they're only dealing pills. Now I can step out of my house and know
it's safe. My house isn't worth much anymore."

Frechette said the cops have more downtown patrols than ever and they
are investigation more than 100 alleged drug houses. They continue to
arrest people, who are then released from jail pending a court date,
and who continue their lifestyle and often breach bail conditions.

"We're as concerned as you are, but we are not the sole cure," the
chief told the angry crowd.

"A lot of things are socio-economic. We have people living on the
margins of society, some by circumstance and others by choice. They're
more at risk in their daily life, and they also cause risk. It's the
violent underbelly of Barrie.

"What causes it? Drugs, other addictions like alcohol, mental illness,
prostitution. We're all familiar with hookers plying their trade at
Dunlop and Mary."

Longtime business owner Darren Firth said he and some of his
neighbours are considering relocating.

"I have customers afraid to walk across our parking lot - at 9 a.m.
and noon. And there are people who relieve themselves in front of my
office," he said, adding downtown wasn't so overrun with bad behaviour
until the Salvation Army opened its shelter near the bus station.

"I never saw prostitution. I never saw drug deals. I never saw Lucy
(who owns the restaurant across the street) being hit with a beer can.
That was the watershed," he said, of the agency that serves hundreds
of meals each week.

He said the shelter tipped the balance. Downtown was already home to
the street centre, a Methadone clinic and a needle exchange program.
"We can't ignore the very serious issues caused by congregating them
all in the same area."

Frechette, however, said there's no easy answer to the downtown crime
issue. More police officers won't solve it - despite the cries for an
increased street-beat presence.

"This neighbourhood is in transition - going from being rooming houses
and problem addresses to considerably upscale," said Frechette.

The two types of residents - and their lifestyles - are

"Drive up (Mary Street) and there are business, homes and
boutiques. Transition is not always easy." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake