Loitering concerns up for discussion

by Phil Ambroziak

Police and business owners plan to work together in an effort to prevent a lingering problem from hanging around longer than it already has.

During the regular meeting of Meadow Lake City Council on Jan. 23, RCMP Sgt. Tim Korman reported concerns have been brought to the attention of police regarding incidents of loitering outside downtown businesses.

“I was recently approached by one of our city’s business owners and asked about different policing and security issues,” Korman stated in his report to council. “I put out an offer to attend a chamber of commerce meeting, so discussions can be initiated as to how businesses can form stronger partnerships with the police, city and other business owners.”

One option to deter loiterers, Korman said, could be the installation of security cameras both inside and pointing outside storefronts.

“This way, one camera would be keeping an eye on a neighbouring business,” he said.

Chamber of commerce president Cliff McKay admitted there are plans to discuss the issue of loitering with police, stating the chamber is always concerned when it comes to anything that could dampen business in the community.

“It’s a difficult matter to comment on because everyone is welcome to walk our streets,” McKay said. “There has been at least one concern brought forward, but we will deal with it internally.”

McKay would not identify the business in question, but a few shop owners and managers did admit loitering can be an annoyance.

“It has definitely been a concern, especially through the summer months when we had to call the police on a couple of occasions,” remarked Bertha Morgenstern, front store manager at Madill’s Drugs.

“It’s definitely an issue and not just for us. I’ve noticed people panhandling outside the Co-Op Marketplace.”
Morgenstern also said she knows some of these people and understands they are harmless, but other people would have no way of knowing that.

“There are people who are genuinely frightened of them,” she said. “If there is anything that can be done to solve this issue, I’m all for it.”
Meadow Lake Co-Op general manager Len Labossiere confirmed there have been incidents of panhandling outside the grocery store, but said there has been no loitering.

“We have the marketplace as well as the pharmacy downtown, but I have heard no feedback about this from my location managers,” Labossiere noted. “I don’t see it as an issue outside our facilities and any panhandling that takes place is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”

It is an issue, however, in the eyes of Cameo House of Hair owner Ann Callbeck. She said loitering outside her business occurs on an almost daily basis.

“There’s lots of it,” she said. “A lot of people are bugged for money as they pass by.”

Callbeck said she has also caught loiterers urinating against her building as well as against the wall of the nearby CIBC.

“I hate to say this, but ever since they opened that Door of Hope it’s been worse,” she continued. “They congregate around there – sometimes 15 to 20 at a time.”

Callbeck is uncertain what can be done to address the situation, fearing allegations of discrimination and retaliation in the form of vandalism. She does agree cameras could be a step in the right direction, adding she would like to see the loiterers gone for good from downtown.

“But, I don’t think that will happen,” she said.

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