City's anti-drug red zone grows
Lawyers request expansion of no-go area to reduce drug dealing downtownPaul Walton , Daily NewsPublished: Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The success of Nanaimo's controversial red zone has resulted in it being expanded.Following the arrests of 22 people in a large drug sweep in mid-November, federal Crown lawyers began asking the courts to increase the size of the zone, after much of the undercover drug dealing was found to be on the outskirts of the Victoria Crescent area."We noticed that the action was moving up Victoria Road," said federal prosecutor Brian Jones.
The zone originally included Victoria Crescent and surrounding streets for two blocks. It is now bounded by Esplanade Street, Milton Street, Fitzwilliam and Bastion Streets and Front Street. That now takes in the Old City Quarter, Commercial Street and the Haliburton Street area north of Milton Street.Jones said the expansion is not because the drug problem is spreading to those areas, but it is being pushed there by the effectiveness of the original red zone. "According to police it's popping up all over the downtown area," he said.Randy Churchill, manager of the city's bylaws department, said though the red zone is administered by the police and courts, the city supports the idea and benefits from it."We have absolute faith in the way it's being dealt with," said Churchill. "It has a very positive effect."Jones cited a recent decision from the Court of Appeal for B.C. upholding a red zone in Victoria. The court said it is not punitive, but assists in keeping drug users from temptation as it cuts them off from easy access to their supply."It's mainly designed to help these people," said Jones.The idea has been criticized for keeping people from resources they may require in the area, but Jones said they can easily enter the zone if they have written permission from a bail or sentence supervisor.He cited the Salvation Army New Hope Centre on Nicol Street as possibly offering assistance.PWalton@nanaimodailynews.com250-729-4230
© The Daily News (Nanaimo) 2007