The Lakeview Mall owner and manager are pointing to the RCMP’s lack of enforcement as the reason behind the issues the mall has been facing.
In response to the article published on April 7, titled “Substance abuse and cleanliness concerns rise at Lakeview Mall in Burns Lake”, mall owner Martin Tessler told Lakes District News that the mall management had reached out to the RCMP on several occasions and that not having a security guard was not the real issue with the mall.
“Our only recourse when faced with crime is to call the RCMP; which we do regularly, apparently over 40 times since January and they not only refuse to enforce the law, they blame other people for not enforcing the law, but we are not law enforcement in Burns Lake, they are! In fact, we would be criminally liable if we take physical action against these offenders,” he wrote in an email adding that this issue was not unique to the mall but was a Burns Lake issue.
While several occupants of the mall said that the mall used to have a problem of homeless folks coming in, especially during winters, this problem had reduced and now most loiter outside the mall in the parking lot.
“This is an ongoing problem in Burns Lake as it is pretty much in any community. The difference is that almost all of the ‘homeless folks coming in and alcohol/substance abuse happening’ in Burns Lake are Aboriginal. Our past manager used to call the band leader who would send people to come and get the offending individuals. The present band leader is not responsive. So our only option is the RCMP,” said Tessler.
When asked about these claims, the RCMP said that given the direction from Crown Counsel regarding “non-person” crimes, Indigenous Justice Framework and the RCMP COVID pandemic approach, there had been alternative measures taken as “police discretion” in a number of the cases.
“This action may be in the form of warnings, transporting the person to a safe environment to prevent the continuation and/or limit the exposure in cells depending on the complaint and what the investigation reveals,” said the Burns Lake detachment staff Sgt. Shaunna Lewis.
Lewis also provided with a breakdown of the 40 calls logged since January about complaints at the Lakeview Mall location. Of the complaints, there were 18 that had insufficient evidence to proceed, four were charges, four were deemed unfounded, and the rest fell under departmental discretion – lodged in cells until sober/able to care for themselves without charges, transported to safe location where capable person can continue care, EHS or transport to hospital, etc.
Lewis had also previously said that it was the mall owner’s responsibility to enlist their own security personnel to assist with non-police matters. One of the occupants of the mall also said that having a security guard will help with the problem to an extent.
The mall didn’t have any security personnel in place since January; they have however hired a security guard starting this week.
“We had a security guard for about a decade, when he left, there was no notable change as it makes little difference whether a security guard calls the RCMP or my mall manager calls the RCMP or a tenant calls, the response is the same, between minimal to no response at all. We are at the mercy of the RCMP,” said Tessler.
“If I hire 10 security guards to be in the mall 24/7 it would only serve to increase the number of calls to the RCMP that they will ignore or do little about.”
Lewis however denied this allegation stating that the RCMP had responded to all calls for service at that location and even had several conversations with the owner and manager explaining the process, the challenges and the actions taken.
“If there is no one to provide a statement and be prepared to testify in court, charges may not proceed. If the person was determined by the investigators not intoxicated/able to care for himself/or has a competent person with them, or the continuation of the offence is not there. It is the totality of the investigation that determines which direction the police take,” she said.
Tessler agreed that there had been several discussions between the RCMP, the mall manager and himself however, to his disappointment, the outcome continues to remain the same.
“For years have we tried every option available to us such as locking certain areas of the mall, hiring private security, hiring a lawyer to interpret the laws in order for us to attempt to force the RCMP to enforce the law, and there have been no arrests we are aware of even when we have pleaded with the RCMP office, they have refused to press charges,” he said.
“The same few people continue to terrorize the community making it unsafe and unpleasant for the citizens of Burns Lake and law enforcement refuses to enforce the law.”
The mall owner is now looking at other legal options to hold the RCMP accountable.