Neighbours clean up an area of Milton Street around a drug house that was declared a nuisance property by the City of Nanaimo last month. (Photo submitted)

Nanaimo neighbourhood tackles ‘field of filth’

Community takes nuisance drug house clean-up into its own hands

It isn’t just a drug house that’s a nuisance, but also the area surrounding it, neighbours say.

Residents have taken it upon themselves to start clearing out trees, bushes and encampments close to 560 Milton St., which was declared a nuisance property by the City of Nanaimo at a meeting in July.

“The RCMP’s hands are tied and bylaw’s hands are tied, they can only do so much,” said resident Natalie Cunliffe. “It’s just a really good community initiative to show that if this is happening in other communities, it really does come down to the people that live there to make a change.”

Dave Laberge, the city’s manager of community safety, told councillors the property is a “tremendously busy drug house.”

A city staff report from July noted that police received 27 calls about the 560 Milton St. property since the start of 2020, typically complaints about “yelling, screaming, fighting and vehicles coming and going all hours of the night.” Nanaimo RCMP busted the house June 10 and arrested one of the occupants and allegedly seized an ounce of crystal methamphetamine, a small amount of fentanyl and cash.

“A number of other drug dealers quickly moved in and then the next piece that came in was one of these derelict RVs that was parked in the backyard which then became a staging area for prostitution and more drug dealing,” said Laberge.

City council, at the July meeting, voted unanimously to designate the house as a nuisance property, which allows staff to charge the homeowner for municipal services such as police resources.

Laberge reported that the owner of the house lives on the Sunshine Coast and met with City of Nanaimo staff in mid July; the homeowner did not attend the meeting at which the house was declared a nuisance property.

Cunliffe alleged that drug use and prostitution is now happening in an overgrown area close by that she called a “field of filth,” which is the where this week’s cleanup is happening.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to do that, but if we want to feel safe at night and not feel threatened by the actions of the house, we need to take a stand as a community and push back a bit,” she said.

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