The owners of the office building at 83 Churchill Drive say they have “grave concerns” about the effect the new Thompson Liquor Mart on the City Centre Mall property is having, citing damage to the building as well as people using their property as a dumping ground for both empty liquor bottles and human excrement.
“Since the opening of the store we have seen a significant increase in liquor-related garbage, loitering and human waste on and around our property,” wrote Neil Cameron, president of the company that owns the building, in an Oct. 22 email sent to Mayor Colleen Smook, city manager Anthony McInnis and RCMP “D” Division. “It has come to the point that the lease holders in our building are fearful for their safety to venture out of the building to access their vehicles or to step outside during a break. In order to ensure the safety of employees and their customers using our building, we are now employing a full-time security guard with all costs associated.”
In a follow-up email read at the Nov. 14 public safety meeting, Cameron said “things have not improved” since his first email, as the owners have had to replace two glass doors that were smashed in the space of a week and are finding human waste by the front doors and elsewhere on the property.
“This is unacceptable,” Cameron wrote in that email. His first email noted that the company that owns the building has been a taxpayer in Thompson for 50 years and that it should be up to the city and RCMP, not individual businesses, to ensure the safety of residents and their property. “Due to the relocation of the Liquor Mart, changes and increases in surveillance routes and presence must be reviewed."
“With the new location [of the Liquor Mart] … we’ve got the same problems in different areas," said Thompson Fire & Emergency Services chief and city director of public safety Mike Bourgon, who recently met with management of the City Centre Mall, along with Smook and McInnis to discuss how they can join forces with the city to lobby Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries to help them address the problems associated with public drinking and intoxication. “Now it’s us and private industry bringing our concerns up to [Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries.]”
McInnis said the city has extended an invitation to Cameron to meet and discuss the issues his property is facing.
The City of Thompson has a behavioural bylaw passed in 2007 that says: “No person shall defecate or urinate in or on a public place or in public on any private property.”
Currently, Thompson only has three community safety officers on duty five days a week, Tuesday to Saturday, with the fourth off duty on paternity leave until February.
Thompson RCMP detachment Staff. Sgt. Chris Hastie said the number of intoxicated persons that the RCMP has detained through the first 10 months of 2019 is up almost 1,000 incidents over what it was last year, with some of those being proactive detainments to protect intoxicated people police believe may be vulnerable to being victimized. Since the new liquor store opened, there has ben a spike of trespassing and nuisance complaints at the mall.
“The odd time people are fighting there,” said Hastie, who believes the number of problems inside the mall will increase next month and beyond as temperatures get colder. Impact Security, which provides security at City Centre Mall, is the source of many of the complaints about intoxicated persons that the RCMP receives, said Hastie.
Many of those drinking in public and being detained on account of intoxication are not from Thompson, said Thompson RCMP detachment officer-in-charge Insp. Brian Edmonds. Hastie estimates that about 95 per cent normally reside in other communities. He also said that the area behind Churchill Drive buildings as well as the parking lot next to the movie theatre have historically been places where people drink but that more people may be gathering there now because mall security is deflecting them away.
Some formerly homeless people now living in the Project Northern Doorway residence on Cree Road are finding it difficult to simply go shopping, said Paullette Simkins, executive director of the Thompson Homeless Shelter and the Canadian Mental Health Association. At times, they are told they are banned from being on mall property even when this is not the case.
“Now they can’t even access Walmart,” she said, while some restaurants are also preventing some Project Northern Doorway residents from entering their establishments.
A local security guard, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke to the Thompson Citizen prior to the Liquor Mart moving to its new location and said that he and others in that job are subject to frequent abuse, often from people who are drunk or high.
“There’s a lot of public intoxication and I think that’s the biggest issue,” he said, with being punched and spit on among the most common attacks that security guards are subjected to, though mental abuse often stings more. “It’s not as bad as some of the stuff that’s said to you.”
Security guards at malls, bars and hotels often find weapons on people they detain, including pepper spray, knives and hatchets, he said, and often have racist comments directed at them.
Still, he says, security guards can build up relationships with people they see day after day.
“They know you by name, you know them by name,” he said, remembering occasions on which he helped someone out by getting them a jacket or pushing them in their wheelchair after a snowfall. “That’s what makes us feel good, when we get to have those conversations.”