Two men are lying in hospital beds in Nanaimo after being shot — one in the face, the other in the abdomen — in recent days as violence and ongoing social disorder sees citizens and local politicians looking to senior governments for help.
Nanaimo is expecting a meeting in the near future with B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth around policing, Mayor Leonard Krog said Monday.
“Nanaimo’s street disorder is getting worse,” said Krog, who repeated calls for involuntary care for some people.
“It is unfortunate that it has resulted in two shootings, which are particularly disturbing and frightening for all of us.
“It is certainly very upsetting and it is frustrating to our police, who are stretched to the max.”
Clint Smith, 49, who owns a Nanaimo auto repair shop, was shot March 12 after going with supporters to a camping spot by the Millstone River to retrieve stolen property. He was taken to hospital in serious condition.
On Saturday evening, a man was shot in the face in downtown Nanaimo and flagged down community safety officers for help.
He remains in hospital in serious but stable condition and will be in hospital for some time, RCMP said.
Police were heading to the hospital on Monday to try to obtain more information about what happened.
It is believed that the man, who had no fixed address, was with others who left the area after the shooting.
No arrests have been made in either shooting.
“I really wish the people who would commit these kinds of acts were in places where they should be, either in involuntary care or in jail but not on our streets,” Krog said.
Others living on the street can be frightened by those deep in addiction, with brain injuries, trauma, mental health issues and where “their behaviour is often utterly unpredictable and dangerous.
“That’s what happens when you don’t have adequate housing, you don’t have safe, secure places for people to live.”
Krog said the city can not rely on police to solve the mental health, addiction and brain injury crisis. The longer it takes to get needed services and facilities up and running, the longer it will take to deal with the situation, he said.
In February’s budget the province committed $1 billion over three years to tackle mental health and addictions as well as provide treatment and recovery beds.
RCMP Reserve Const. Gary O’Brien said, “Our downtown core has always been a priority for policing because we know that’s where people congregate.”
Police bike patrols, marked police cars, city bylaw officers and community safety officers are all visible in the core. “So that nothing is left to chance. We want to assure the public, through our uniformed presence, that we are taking this extremely seriously.”
“It’s a big deal in our community and we totally get that. We are not missing the message here at all. People want to see action. We are doing what we can.”
The police department is receiving 12 recruits over two years; some are in Nanaimo while others are still to arrive.
Collen Middleton, interim chair of the Nanaimo Area Public Safety Association, said citizens are “angered and sickened” by the shootings.
“Nanaimo’s public safety crisis is continuing at an alarming rate and immediate action must be taken by the provincial and federal governments to bring in whatever reinforcements are necessary to restore public safety, which is affecting every corner of our city and population.” He’s looking to senior governments to take more action, saying, “The city has done all it can do.”
“Enough was a enough a long time ago.”
Examples of recent incidents include last week’s arrest of a man in the parking lot of Port Place Shopping Centre. It was reported that people were threatened by man with a toy bow and arrow with what appeared to be a hypodermic needle attached.
Sean Patterson was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the January death of Serguei Chiliakhov near the same shopping centre.
This week, two murder cases are to have dates set in the Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo.
Paris Laroche is facing charges of first-degree murder and interfering with human remains in relation to the death of Sidney Mantee, who disappeared in 2020.
James Turok is charged with second-degree murder in the death last year of Eric Kutzner, 79, at a cafe. He had helped seniors and people living with disabilities.