THUNDER BAY -- Kathy Forbes says the public has to be the eyes and the ears in their neighbourhoods.
Over the past year or so the Syndicate Avenue resident has done just that, spearheading a charge to clean up the banks of the McIntyre River, a notorious gathering spot for drug addicts and alcoholics that had lowered a cloak of fear over the area.
Through her persistent efforts with Thunder Bay Police, CN Police and local businesses, lighting has been added and brush cut back to discourage criminal activity and lessen the danger to intoxicated people who wander down by the river or cross a railway bridge with nowhere to run if a train comes along.
Forbes who has lived in the area for several decades with her husband Brian, a long-time member of the Thunder Bay Police Service’s Zone Watch program, said a chance meeting last September with Const. Curtis Trotz of the CN Police convinced her to speak out and try to make a difference.
“It was unsafe for everyone involved,” Forbes said on Thursday, helping police and the local crime prevention council showcase what can be done in different areas of the city.
Forbes said it was her goal in life to get this done, given what she’s gone through in recent years in her own life.
“I’m a three-time cancer survivor and this being my neighbourhood, this was a mission for me, to get this cleaned up. I’m lucky to be here this year, so I’m really happy looking at this.”
Trotz, who arrived in Thunder Bay last year, said the large number of people congregating in and around the railway bridge were a concern to him, something he too wanted to help eliminate.
Forbes provided the push, her bulldog attitude spreading to everyone she brought the issue up with.
“We were seeing things like property damage, graffiti, all sorts of smaller things happening,” Trotz said.
“Usually when these types of things do occur they can spread into something a little bit larger if you don’t work together to try to solve the problem.”
It was all about partnerships from there.
Lee-Ann Chevrette, the acting crime prevention council co-ordinator, said her group was quick to jump on board.
Cleaning up the city has to start locally, she said, adding the council is focusing this year on crime prevention through environmental design.
“We’re looking at the ways in which we can make improvements to the environment to increase safety,” she said.
That can include anything from improved lighting or clearing out brush to improve natural surveillance, like they did recently in the Field Street area, where two homicides have occurred in recent years.
“These things can make a significant difference,” Chevrette said. “We’re in the process of working with Thunder Bay Police to develop a tool where neighbourhoods can go out, conduct safety audits, identify feature they can improve to increase community safety.”
Sgt. Greg Stein of the Thunder Bay Police Service said it wasn’t their initiative, but it was one they were happy to lend a hand to, especially given the rash of violent deaths in the city this summer.
The police cannot be everywhere, Stein said.
“This is a great community initiative for Zone Watch, which is essentially a community policing initiative. Our partnership with CN Police is also key. The big thing for this is not only reducing calls for service, but also making it safer for all emergency services responders who have to respond to events in this area –which has also been mentioned, have been reduced.”
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