Late visit to camp by RCMP

Campers say they were ‘told to move to Cliff Avenue’

The mood on Cliff Avenue Wednesday following discussions between street people, residents, bylaws and police had mellowed into the evening, said Brian Smeding.

His wife Liz Zubek’s medical clinic faces on to the road where the camp is set up behind the Salvation Army’s Caring Place and for the past two years Smeding has been making nightly patrols of the area to ensure everyone’s safe. It’s something he does just out of his own Christian faith, his wife explains.

“By the afternoon in that camp, there was a real sense of people talking … maybe something will get done … and this happens and it just shatters everything.”

Smeding’s referring to the visit at around 2 a.m. Thursday by nine police in six cars.

By that time, most of the campers were asleep only.

“The cops all got out. They started tapping tents, asking for IDs, taking names.”

Smeding, who was on his own property videotaping, was also asked what he was doing.

He says the situation could have escalated had he not been there.

“As soon as the cops knew I was there and that I was recording things,” they sort of calmed down.

The police presence only lasted for about 20 minutes and no one was arrested, Smeding said.

And usually people at the camp don’t mind the police making their regular checks of the area.

“It was like something out of Vice or Cops or something like that.”

Zubek said that the reason more homeless people have gathered on the road is because they were told by bylaws officers around the city to move to the area where enforcement would be relaxed.

“They were actually told they had to leave. They were told the only place without enforcement was Cliff Avenue,” Zubek said.

Mayor Nicole Read hadn’t heard that.

“I would be totally surprised to hear that bylaws was telling them to move over to Cliff Ave.”

RCMP Const. Sgt. Casey Baker said there’s no record of any calls for service to the area from overnight, although officers on shift that night still might have made the check. But it was too soon to talk to officers from that shift, he added.