Drugs and substance abuse rampant at Lakeview mall, 2021. (Submitted/Lakes District News)

Substance abuse and cleanliness concerns rise at Lakeview Mall in Burns Lake

Burns Lake RCMP received over 40 calls for service to the mall since January

The Lakeview Mall in Burns Lake has been seeing a growing number of substance abuse and cleanliness issues.

While several people in the community have been complaining about the lack of cleanliness at the mall, the abysmal condition of the bathrooms and the unsanitized door handles, the mall management claims to have already increased cleaning routines since a year due to COVID.

According to Brad Miller, the mall manager, before COVID the janitorial service was asked to come once a day after the closing time but now the service has been extended to cleaning during the day as well.

Despite this, the janitorial service Shumka’s Janitorial, has several horror stories from the depths of the malls bathrooms and hallways.

“We have seen in the last little bit here; I don’t know if they are homeless but there is a lot of drug and alcohol abuse and people are coming into the bathroom there and it is just turning into a nightmare for the mall and for me, as the guy cleaning it, it definitely is a real nightmare,” said Dave Shumka.

The crew hasn’t just been doing the basic cleaning and sanitizing but have also been discovering needles and dealing with people passed out inside the bathrooms. Last week, one of Shumka’s crews found a man passed out in the bathroom with a needle still next to him in the stall.

“We have very little shoplifting or anything like that. Our biggest problem is people coming to the mall drunk or drinking here etc. Considering we have an RCMP station literally across the street, I can’t believe how many people can be found here drinking or drunk,” said the mall manager.

Since Jan. 1 of this year, the Burns Lake RCMP has received just over 40 calls for service to the Lakeview Mall. The majority of the calls are subjects causing a disturbance or for police to conduct a well being check at that location, according to the detachment sergeant Shaunna Lewis.

Lewis also said that while the RCMP had received very few reports of drug activity at the mall, people under the influence of alcohol or drugs have been the main concern there. She however pointed out that people sleeping in the mall hallways and stalls was not the responsibility of the police.

“It is the mall owner’s responsibility to provide the business owners and their customers a safe and enjoyable environment. Most mall owners enlist in their own security personnel to assist with “non-police” matters,” she said.

Lewis also said that a person sleeping in the mall was not a police matter unless there was a concern for that person’s health, at which time an ambulance would also be required. If the subjects are causing a disturbance, or are intoxicated in public, then police attendance is warranted and the RCMP will attend, investigate, and determine what actions are warranted.

Actions that the RCMP can take under such circumstances could be in the form of warnings, violation tickets, arrests and/or charges requiring court appearances.

“Right now there is no security and a lot of people are going to the liquor store, getting drunk, sitting down in the hallways, or sleeping in the back hallway by the office. The toll this takes on the mall is huge,” said Shumka.

The mall doesn’t currently have a security person but they do have several cameras in place and are in the process of hiring a new security guard.

“I have done everything I can legally do. I have about half a dozen guys that I have banned through life but they continue to show up. The courts and the police need to start doing something about this,” said Miller.

However, Lewis pointed out that pro-active patrols on foot and by vehicle in the Burns Lake business core have been part of the RCMP members’ daily routine. She also said that this had limitations in place with the weather as well as with the COVID pandemic.

“Just because the buildings are nearby does not mean the officers are right there, looking out the windows. Therefore, the general public are encouraged to report crimes and be an extra set of eyes. In order to be a part of the solution, the general public is reminded to provide their names and details to the police so they can gather more information and follow up on the action being taken,” said Lewis.

Lewis also suggested that if people wish to report “drug activity” and remain anonymous, they are encouraged to call CRIMESTOPPERS.

“Although it does not provide immediate response, it does provide information that could further investigations and lead to charges, as well as getting some drugs off the streets,” she said.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist


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