Council drafts new loitering bylaw

The District of Fort St. James mayor and council are looking at adopting a bylaw to address loitering in the downtown.

The District of Fort St. James mayor and council are looking at adopting a bylaw to address loitering in the downtown.

While presenting his quarterly statistics to council at the Jan. 23 council meeting, Staff Sergeant Paul Thalhofer mentioned a bylaw could help to give RCMP another tool to implement more enforcement in the downtown.

He expressed concern some of the people asking for money have become more aggressive.

“It doesn’t take away from the Liquor Act and the Criminal Code that we use right now, but it just … gives us some more authority,” he said.

Mayor Rob MacDougall agreed with Thalhofer, and said council had already been discussing introducing some sort of bylaw.

So far the changes look at potential ticket able offences involving standing in public places in ways which block pedestrian or vehicular traffic, soliciting in ways which cause obstruction, and prohibits soliciting within 10 m of the entrance of a bank or credit union or automated teller machine.

“It is trying to address some of those exact concerns that we’ve talked about in the community,” said MacDougall. “We’ll try to come up with something that’s workable and will complement what you have as far as your laws.”

Thalhofer said it would be another tool to help the RCMP better deal with the concerns around loitering and drinking in the downtown, but also with the understanding, they are not only doing enforcement.

“Although we’re doing this here with the enforcement aspect of things, it doesn’t mean we’re still not working towards a long-term solution as well,” he said.

Thalhofer said he has been working with the Nak’azdli Alternate Justice Centre on their Drop-In Centre and speaking to Tl’azt’en about their drop-off locations for community transportation.

Councillor Joan Burdeniuk, manager of the local Integris Credit Union branch, said the work the RCMP have been doing downtown has helped.

“We definitely have noticed the increased enforcement. We have had the officers drop in several times and introduce themselves and just walk up and down and introduce themselves to everybody on the street, so that’s good,” she said. “There’s a comfort level with the staff … and that relationship has been very well-established.”

The draft bylaw is available as part of the Jan. 23 council meeting agenda at www.forstjames.ca.