A Happy Valley-Goose Bay resident recently snapped this photo of transients gathering near a trail where park benches used to be. Facebook

Happy Valley-Goose Bay is pulling the seats out from under drunk and disorderly transients, but even George Andrews admits it’s not much of a solution.

“We don’t have a whole lot we can do from the town perspective, but we’re trying to mitigate as best we can,” Andrews told The Telegram Thursday, “so we made the decision to remove the benches temporarily until security gets reinstated, or whatever plan the government’s working at comes forward.”

The benches he’s talking about are mainly around the USAF T-33 jet monument and at the beginnings of trails around the community.

More action needed

Earlier in the month, Andrews and other councillors issued a video statement demanding more action to mitigate public safety concerns in the town.

Residents are reporting lawless behaviour by some of the 80 or more transients who come primarily from nearby Innu and Inuit communities. Some are disrupting traffic and threatening residents, including children. There’ve been frequent repoorts of break-ins, thefts and even sexual assaults.

The province has focused its reponse around a planned, purpose-built shelter that would provide voluntary health and addictions services, but a recent petition suggests a solid majority of residents are opposed to it.

“We told them last November that things were going to escalate, and yes, lo and behold, they have escalated,” Andrews said.

Despite an extra RCMP patrol being added to the local detachment last year, the mayor says the situation is worse than it’s ever been.

“Were seeing more and more activity,” he said. 

“There were probably between 20 and 25 folks at the plane monument last night ’til the wee hours of the morning who appeared to be drinking, throwing rocks and bottles and stuff like that.”

Fed up

An acute response team, consisting of various government ministers, was formed last year to address short-term problems, but Andrews says little has happened since.

“We had an acute response team meeting this morning, and we’re no further ahead,” he said. 

“We’re probably worse off than we were last year, so it’s very frustrating.”

Justice Minister John Hogan has said at least twice in the past year that he doesn’t see law enforcement as the ultimate solution to the problem, although he encouraged residents to call the RCMP when needed.

Andrews said applications have closed for a municipal security officer post and he expects the job will be filled shortly. 

But he emphasizes the officer will have no meaningful enforcement powers.

‘Zero difference’

Meanwhile, some residents have expressed sympathy for the town council on social media, while others are mocking the decision to remove benches.

“Moving the bench at the plane made zero difference,” wrote one person on Facebook. “Just passed a group sitting on the monument plaque and all around.”

One woman said the benches are important for older people and those in poor health.

“Our lawbreakers are winning this stupid life they choose to live in, while the rest of us law-abiding citizens are paying for it.”

By Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 28, 2023 at 05:32

This item reprinted with permission from   The Telegram   St. John's, Newfoundland
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