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Will a 'safe place' stop stuff like this from happening downtown?

Councillors are proposing surveillance cameras. Cops are talking environmental design. Jane McGoldrick is just trying to talk a barricaded woman out of her bathroom
20200324 Video surveillance
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At 6:17 p.m. Thursday, an obviously distraught Jane McGoldrick posted a video from her downtown eatery, East Street Pizza Co.

"I currently have a person who is in my washroom doing drugs," McGoldrick explained to her Facebook friends.

"They have locked themselves in the bathroom. We've knocked on the door to try to get the person to vacate the building, with no luck. So we've called the police."

"I'm absolutely terrified, not only for my business but for the individual who has barricaded themselves in the washroom."

"There is a real need for change in our downtown because people are dying and they need resources."

Holding back tears, McGoldrick then continued: "As someone who's lost a family member to addiction, it's a struggle every day to see what these people are going through."

"I just hope that by sharing this video, I've really let people know what we're faced with every day down here and how heartbreaking the situation is."

"I really need our city to step up and focus on getting services for these people."

"I don't want to call the cops on this person. This person doesn't belong in jail. This person belongs in a treatment facility."

"If this is what it takes to get the attention that we need, then so be it."

McGoldrick then signed off Facebook, with a prayer that the woman in her bathroom would be okay.

The popular restauranteur isn't the first to warn that things have been getting worse downtown since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

In August, Richard Kim advised the Downtown Association that the roof of his Queen Street dance studio had turned into an injection site.

In September, there was talk of business owners taking matters into their own hands to protect their establishments, after Krista Nolan of Mane Street Cafe and Lounge reported much of its patio furniture had been stolen.

This month, Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Shoemaker and his Ward 4 counterpart Rick Niro are signalling that the city needs to a create a 'safe place' downtown. 

"Businesses have recently expressed frustration at increased petty crime, which is on the rise across the city, but is acutely present downtown in the off-business hours when many buildings are unoccupied," the councillors say in a resolution to be presented at Monday's City Council meeting.

"Now therefore be it resolved that staff be requested to investigate and report on options to create a 'safe place' downtown, which option could include either surveillance in the downtown core or security patrols in the downtown core during non-core hours and determine if partnerships with downtown merchants or the Downtown Association can facilitate whichever option is recommended," the resolution reads.

The city's 2016 downtown strategy included creation of a core-area 'safe place' as one of seven proposed pillars of an improved downtown.

Sault Ste. Marie Police Service has committed to sending a representative to the Downtown Association's monthly board meetings.

Officers came for a while, then stopped coming.

Last week, the police finally returned to the table.

This time, they sent a hero to clean up Dodge City.

They sent Const. Emily Coccimiglio, Sault Ste. Marie Police Service’s 2018 Peace Officer of the Year and a nominee for that year's Police Association of Ontario Police Services Hero of the Year award.

"Not only is she strong and resilient, but she is a great role model for women," said Coccimiglio's provincial nomination. "Women in policing often approach and solve problems from a different angle than their male co-workers and this is exactly what Constable Coccimiglio does."

Coccimiglio helped investigate the 2011 murder of Wesley Hallam.

"She was a consistent support during the trial, showing compassion and respect throughout the entire process," Wesley's mother Sandra Hallam said later. "As a result of her involvement, Emily has been welcomed into our family and is now a close personal friend."

"Emily is always checking up on me," wrote a local recovering drug addict in a letter of commendation. "She is someone I will remember until the day I die. Emily is my hero now and will continue to be."

"She doesn't just go to work do her job and leave, she goes out of her way to help people and to me that is a true definition of a police officer."

Coccimiglio explained that she and Const. Alison Kirkpatrick are community safety officers assigned to the local community mobilization initiative.

She has 20 years of experience. Const. Kirkpatrick has 29.

"I think with the two of us, we can bring a lot of ideas," Coccimiglio said.

"We're going to try to identify problematic areas in our community, whether it's mischief to vehicles, graffiti, speeding."

Whatever the problem, officers would be sent out on overtime to crack down on it.

Coccimiglio talked at her first Downtown Association meeting about the importance of environmental design – especially lighting – in crime prevention.

She proposed touring the core area with members of the Downtown Association board, preferably during an evening.

Meanwhile, later on Thursday night, Jane McGoldrick was back on Facebook from her restaurant.

"Luckily, our person that barricaded themselves in the bathroom, was not obviously okay but didn't have a bad outcome. They were able to vacate on their own. Just kinda escaped," she said.

"Gave them some pizza and some water. I think they're going to live to see another day, but still no police yet. It's been almost half an hour."

"Maybe the next time she goes into my washroom she won't be so lucky. That would just be such an awful thing to go through."

"Here's hoping that one day they get the help that they need and this serves as a wake-up call."

"We really need some help down here. These people need help."

To view the videos Jane McGoldrick posted on Facebook, please click here


David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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