A former president of the West End BIZ says the area has been unfairly portrayed as dangerous following a recent series of violent incidents.
Two individuals were murdered in separate attacks in the West End earlier this summer while there have also been a number of stabbings and shootings reported to police. The area also continues to be plagued by an ongoing prostitution problem.
Dave Mack said the neighbourhood’s reputation has taken a beating as a result of the incidents.
"As far as perception over the whole city, the West End has got a bad rap, there’s no question about it," said Mack, who has owned All Star Collision & Glass on Sargent Avenue since 1999.
"There’s people that live here that would not live anywhere else. We do business here and we have no problem doing business here."
Mack suggested that the city consider installing closed-circuit cameras near troublesome street corners to act as a deterrent.
Area residents also need to be more proactive and report any criminal activity to police, he said.
The problem is that many newcomers are fearful of dealing with police and the consequences of reporting any suspicious activity, he added. The last Canadian census in 2006 reported that 1,960 of 26,000 residents in the West End were recent immigrants.
Lisa Perkins, who has lived in the West End for more than 40 years, said new immigrants need to be better integrated into the community and feel safe about bringing up any concerns without fear of retribution.
Navigating the language barrier makes it difficult to gain their trust, she said, but instituting an anonymous tip line, like Powerline in Point Douglas, might help.
"I think people would support it if they didn’t have to give their name because a lot of these people don’t speak English very well and they just don’t want to get involved," Perkins said.
Kemlin Nembhard, executive director of the Daniel McIntyre-St. Matthews Community Association, said there needs to be more money invested into community organizations that actually reach people.
Nembhard said preventative measures, not reactionary programs, are needed to getting kids and families on the right track.
"People not having access to jobs and being able to make a decent living and not having access to different programs that other people do are all things that create a situation that often ends up in unsafe circumstances," she said.
"(The programs) feed a nutritious snack and gives them stuff to do so that they are not just wandering aimlessly getting into trouble," said Nembhard, whose organization is based out of the Valour Community Centre on Burnell.
Coun. Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) said the recent donation by Zellers to the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre is a good example of a positive investment in the community. However, he said that more needs to be done in the neighbourhood.
"We shouldn’t be relying on the private sector, we should be putting tax dollars into recreation activities," he said.
Smith said the city should offer tax incentives to businesses and residents to encourage them to move to the West End, and provide more money for housing programs.
"We have to increase the housing dollars and develop a program to reduce the number of renters and get more resident-owned homes," he said.