Neighbours moved in to oust a squatters’ camp and its residents from a rural community south of Nanaimo on the weekend.
The action happened Saturday when about 40 South Wellington residents descended on a camp that sprawled on private property and Crown land along Hill Avenue that included a number of people living in a “run down” house and others who had set up camp in trailers and RVs.
According a social media post, which included photos and video footage of the cleanup work, the neighbourhood had been suffering for about two years with break-ins, thefts, assaults, mailboxes broken into and other crime in the area.
Earlier in the week a group of community members went to the camp and told the residents they had until Saturday to leave. At 10 a.m. Feb. 8, neighbours moved in with tools, dumpster bins and an excavator and started dismantling the camp.
“If you go down there now it’s still a mess,”said Greg Stolz, an area resident who participated in the cleanup. “We want to go back there on Saturday again with machinery and stuff. We want to put the land back the way it should be.”
The owner of the property allegedly gave her blessing to the cleanup and was there on Saturday.
Stolz said the work party arrived in a convoy of pickup trucks, which he believed caused some concern for the residents of the camp, but some who were living in RVs had left earlier in the week.
“They knew they didn’t have a choice,” he said.
“It was crazy, just crazy, the amount of [crime],” Stolz said. “I mean, our community mailboxes for us up here on Plecas [Road] and stuff. Just about every door on them was pried open and that happened three times in three weeks.”
Stolz said residents had been communicating via a community Block Watch social media group for about one year and were keeping tabs on the crime in the area and the people suspected of committing it, which proved to also be the communication platform used to organize Saturday’s action.
Stolz also said Nanaimo RCMP were on scene when the cleanup party arrived.
“Our position is such, that we were there to ensure the situation did not get out of control and that we’re to keep the peace,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman.
O’Brien said one individual was detained by police under the Mental Health Act and taken to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital for assessment.