'We need effective policies': Cambridge residents rally for action on crime and drug addiction
CAMBRIDGE -- Dozens of people gathered in Cambridge on Saturday afternoon to "take back Cambridge" and call for better supports.
Some residents said they're fed up with crime in the city, which could be linked to drug addiction.
The group rallied in front of city hall, protesting what they called a lack of action from all levels of government on crime and addiction.
Shashonnah Shea said she joined the group to march for change.
"It is so frustrating," she said. "I'm scared. I like to walk. I can't walk at nighttime."
She said she doesn't feel safe in her community after alleged attempted robberies in her home and car.
"We've had stuff ruined, stolen," she said. "At my kid's school, there's been needles in the playground."
Organizers from Neighbourhood Watch Cambridge said they hosted the rally to bring more attention to the issues surrounding crime in Cambridge.
"It needs to change," organizer Adam Cooper said. "We need effective policies put in place to stop this."
Some claim an increase in crime could be fuelled by drug addiction and homelessness. They also are concerned that harm reduction strategies aren't working.
"Instead of tackling the real problem, which is addiction, all it does is continue to enable it," Cooper said. "When you enable it, you get the horrific crime you see here."
The protest brought out a big crowd, but not all residents feel the same way.
"It seems like there was a lot of political finger pointing," resident Lee Sperduti said.
Sperduti said protesters should look at a bigger picture.
"What I think we need to focus on is a housing-first issue for people who are homeless," Sperduti said. "Looking at the drug issue and treating it like it is an illness."
Mayor Kathryn McGarry didn't attend Saturday's rally.
"I appreciate, understand and share the concerns of the residents who were part of the event today. Many are worried about public safety; and many feel there needs to be better help for those who are struggling," a statement from McGarry said in part.
In the statement, McGarry said she agrees that more needs to be done. But, she said the city can't do it alone, without additional provincial or federal funding.
"Social services, housing, public health, and policing do not officially come under city jurisdiction. That said, council and city staff work extremely hard with our partners to encourage innovative solutions and to supplement regional efforts, and to advocate for much- needed funding at the upper tiers of government," the statement added. "At the municipal level, we developed an online app to report and track needle debris and garbage, and implemented enhanced security lighting and cameras in our downtown and along city trails. We also reallocated resources to create the Ambassador Team who add a friendly presence to the downtown cores by providing maintenance, ambassador and beautification services."
McGarry also said the problems aren't unique to one area.
"There has been a focus lately on downtown Galt but, these are difficult and complex problems that are not isolated to one community," she said. "The problems we are seeing are symptoms of many overlapping and interconnected issues – mental health, addiction, poverty, lack of treatment options, homelessness. These are serious social issues that reach far beyond our boundaries."
Cooper said he'd like to see more support from the government.
"I'm frustrated for all levels of government for not handling this properly," he said.
McGarry said city staff are listening to residents' concerns.
"We all have a shared goal -- the protection and well-being of our community," she said.
Organizers said they would consider another rally in the future, since the fight isn't over.