A downtown Prince George business owner wants to shine a light on crime in the light industrial area east of Queensway.
Sheldon White is looking into forming a Queensway East business improvement association and using money from memberships to pay for increased security patrols and improved street lighting.
There are no streetlights on many streets in the area east of Queensway bordered by First Avenue to the north and Patricia Boulevard to the south, and that increases the likelihood of property crime. White’s security cameras and that of his neighbours regularly record the same vehicles driving through the area, long after most businesses have closed for the day. He says a possible solution to deter crime would be if the city could adjust the schedules of its bylaw officers to allow later patrols.
White owns Central Display & Tent at 150 Ottawa St., and his property is right next to Canadian Propane, a propane bulk station. White was in the building one night in June when his security system detected a fire that was burning against a wood telephone pole on the property. White put the fire out as the woman who lit the fire took off. She was later arrested by the police, who determined she was a resident of the nearby BC Housing complex. He said she was detained briefly, then returned to the residence soon after and he’s seen her come and go there since then.
One reason White wants to form the group is to increase political sway to oppose projects like the BC Housing complex at 160 Ontario St., and its proposed expansion.
“That’s a real sore spot for me,” said White. “We were told it would be a place primarily for addictions and homelessness and that there was going to be a curfew and a contract they had to sign, respecting the neighbourhood. Based on what I’ve experienced, there are no consequences if there is a contract and there is definitely no curfew, so BC Housing unintentionally misinformed us.”
For White and other property owners in the area, the residence has been problematic since it first opened. From June 7- Oct. 20, White has six police reports filed about break-ins, attempted break-ins or human-caused fires at his business which he says were all perpetrated by residents of the Ontario Street complex.
“I can definitively say, through tracking with cameras and trying to find out who accessed our properties, most of the people leave that property after 11 o’clock,” said White. “There’s actual video footage several times of people actually leaving and coming back with bags of stuff. If they’re coming back with bags of stuff and nothing’s open except Husky, where are they getting the stuff? Nobody is against helping homeless. But at what point do you force people to be taken care of when it’s clear they’re incapable of taking care of themselves.”
He says a City of Prince George webpage that maps the reported property crimes in the city dating back to the start of the year is not accurate because it shows only two police reports in the area Queensway East area for all of 2022 up to the most recent update on Nov. 28. He had six property crime incidents related to his property in less than five months.
“I think because the data is skewed the city isn’t getting the proper information to say, ‘Hey, we do need more officers,’” said White. “I’m not pretending to have all the solutions, I just know that presence is a deterrence.”