Village merchants, residents want police to beef up security
The Gay Village has undergone significant change over the past few years, but it has not gone far enough for some merchants.
The area surrounding Ste-Catherine St. E between St-Hubert and Papineau has had years of gentrification, with an influx of condominium buyers and young families choosing to live in the Village area.
But some of the old problems remain, such as homelessness and beggars, and Village merchants think their clients are being unduly harassed.
"Often they're aggressive, and all the people who come here they scare them, so it's not very good," business owner Luc Genereux said.
Several complaints are lodged regarding an increase of drug and alcohol abuse among the homeless in the area.
In spite of the problems, William Raillant-Clarke used to enjoy living in the area but decided with his husband to leave when he was attacked one night.
The police response was not exactly reassuring.
"He said that these things happen all the time," Raillant-Clarke said.
The police are very visible in the Village area, particularly on week-ends. But there appears to be a feeling that they are not strict enough, and often times they are rookie cadets with little power.
"With that money," Genereux said, "they should hire more police officers who have power."
Montreal police estimates there are no more than 150 homeless people who systematically require their attention in the area.
The police are also attempting to be a bit more pro-active in their law enforcement practices in the area.
Inspector Marc Riopel heads a squad that tries to intervene and help those with obvious addiction and mental health problems.
"With a bit of help they can go back and live as normal citizens," he says.
However, some cases require more attention than others.
"When they're really at their lowest, they don't even recognize the officer who talked to them the day before," Riopel said.
No matter how they do it, residents and merchants in the area hope the police can find a solution to the problem as soon as they can.