A security guard patrols the parking lot of Iqaluit’s beer and wine store in response to recent incidents of criminal activity in the area. (Photo by Jeff Pelletier) Jeff Pelletier

A security guard posted at Iqaluit’s beer and wine store seems to be deterring criminals.

The Finance Department stationed the guard in the parking lot of the store, which is operated by Nunavut’s liquor and cannabis commission, on Aug. 2 in response to a spike in assaults and robberies in the area over the summer.

“The new security measure appears to be having a positive impact in the first two weeks and the NULC will continue to monitor,” said Mark Witzaney, a spokesperson for the department.

He said the liquor commission also asked the RCMP to increase patrols in the area.

The request for more policing dates back to June, when Nunavut RCMP posted an advisory to Facebook warning people about thefts in the area.

That advisory, posted June 16, urged residents to be “vigilant and aware of [their] surroundings” outside of the store following reports that people were having their purchases “stolen both with and without violence.”

Nunatsiaq News contacted Nunavut RCMP for an interview about increased patrols and statistics on crime in the area. However, by an Aug. 15 story deadline no such interview was arranged.

Instead, spokesperson Sgt. Pauline Melanson provided several emailed statements over the course of two weeks about some of the incidents that have occurred around the store.

She said there were four robberies reported in the area in May. Two men were charged in connection to those incidents and a search warrant was executed on one of them in June.

Melanson said the RCMP had already increased patrols in the area by the time Finance sent out its request.

“The Iqaluit RCMP increased their patrols in the area of the beer and wine store beginning in May when the first two robberies were reported,” she said.

She said the RCMP does not have statistics about how many crimes have occurred in the area this summer.

Witzaney said Finance also does not have those statistics, and directed Nunatsiaq News back to RCMP for that information.

Thefts, assaults, intimidation

However, crime does seem to be on the rise near the store this summer.

Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Arreak Lightstone, whose electoral district includes the beer and wine store, said he has received several complaints from constituents over thefts, assaults and intimidation in the area.

In particular, Lightstone said young women have contacted his office saying they don’t feel safe walking alone in that part of the city.

“I have heard many concerns from individuals … about people being approached, intimidated, violence and robbery, not just in the proximity on the premises but further down the street in the Baffin Gas area,” Lightstone said in an interview.

“It seems the crime severity in the summer months is exceptionally higher than in previous years.”

Lightstone wrote to Finance Minister Lorne Kusugak earlier this summer expressing concern about the situation. He received a response the same week that security first appeared on site at the store.

In a letter to Lightstone, Kusugak said his department takes security in the area seriously and will “measure” the effect of having a security guard in the area.

Lightstone said he is happy about the response, however, he believes the long-term solution is better access to addiction and trauma recovery services.

Lightstone said the Aqqusariaq Recovery Centre in Iqaluit, which had its ground-breaking ceremony Monday, could help. However, construction won’t be completed until December 2025.

“As we all know, a majority of crime and harm that occurs in Iqaluit is directly related and correlated to alcohol,” he said.

“The only solution to addressing the safety concerns is providing that type of programming, but more importantly, trying to promote and educate Iqalummiut about the harmful effects alcohol has not just on the individual, but their family members and their friends and their close circles.”

Extra security is contracted to be in place at Iqaluit’s beer and wine store for the remainder of the summer, Witzaney said.

By Jeff Pelleter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 17, 2023 at 07:02

This item reprinted with permission from   Nunatsiaq News   Iqaluit, Nunavut
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