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Citizens find downtown unsafe at night

owntown Whitehorse can be a frightening place at night, according to respondents to the 2008 Biennial Citizen Survey.

owntown Whitehorse can be a frightening place at night, according to respondents to the 2008 Biennial Citizen Survey.

Only 62 per cent of Whitehorse residents feel safe walking alone in the downtown at night, according to the survey.

This is a 10 per cent drop in the number of people who felt safe in 2006.

“It could be a perception thing more than it is reality,” said Downtown Residents Association president John Pattimore.

“I don’t feel all that unsafe and I probably feel safer (than I did in 2006), but maybe I know more about the place than others.”

One thing that’s helping to strengthen safety in the downtown area is the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation, said Pattimore.

However, the program, which allows neighbours to report suspicious activities such as drug dealing, is not a quick fix.

“You move one group of people away, then the place might get filled up with the same sort, but you just have to keep at it,” he said.

“This is a huge problem. It ain’t going to go away with a couple little house shutdowns, is it?”

After its first year of operation, the SCAN office received 139 complaints and issued 37 warnings to Whitehorse homes where criminal activity was believed to be taking place.

People were formally evicted from 17 homes, while 20 were sent warning letters.

The infamous 810 Wheeler Street home received its first warning letter in June.

A year later, neighbours say that drugs are still being sold from the residence.

Other aspects of the downtown core, such as bars, riverbanks and the wooded area around the clay cliffs, tend to attract a somewhat shadier side of society, said Pattimore.

“I don’t feel endangered, but I see it — it’s the underbelly of our community.”

However, residents seem to feel safe in other areas of Whitehorse.

As many as 90 per cent of those surveyed said they feel safe walking alone at night in their own neighbourhoods.

Other issues

The 2008 Biennial Citizen Survey shed light on many other aspects of Whitehorse society.

Asked about the city’s current four-storey height restriction, 49 per cent said they would be in favour of taller buildings.

A quarter of those surveyed said they would support a building height of eight storeys, or higher.

However, they couldn’t agree on where those buildings should go.

Half of the respondents said the taller buildings should only be in the downtown while the other half said that they should never be allowed there.

For the survey, 1,031 names were randomly chosen. These people were contacted by phone.

A little over half of that sample agreed to complete the 40-minute survey.

The majority of those surveyed had been living in Whitehorse for more than five years.

Half of them had called the city home for more than 20 years.

The respondents found that the city was easy to access and approach, and 77 per cent reported that there is sufficient public input and consultation.

Most respondents did not support tax increases to cover inflation, but they were also against cutting city services.

However, they were more amenable to a blend of both.

Many supported a combination of increased taxes, increased user fees and eliminating some services to cover the extra costs.

The citizens found road surfaces, street sweeping and snow clearing to be well handled.

And they were also very pleased with the city’s recreation services.

However, only 38 per cent are currently happy with their garbage pickup.

Respondents also think the city is doing a good job protecting the environment and recommended an increase in public transit, green space protection and public education.