There has been far too much new activity in that strip behind the convenience store building. Many times I have walked out my back porch door to see a surprised head pop up then leave in a hurry.
As described in “Too Many Creeps”, this area is not visible in any way to the gas station employees, or passers by unless someone is directly standing in front of it. Unfortunately, because of their too short fence and my lower elevation this area, people in it and garbage contents in it ARE visible to me – and my nose. The only person who needs to access this area is the gas meter reader, every 30 days.
A few weeks ago I set up in the backyard to work on my driveway gates – attaching pickets to the frame. It was early evening. I was using a drill. An agitated guy strolled into the problem area, talking to himself. He walked to the very end, leaned over the fence to look around in my yard and was calling out to somebody – who was not there. At some point he saw me and tried to look normal, “casual”. I probably gave him a brief nod, as he saw me then kept on working. I try to not look friendly during these unpleasant encounters.
As I worked I could tell the guy was still there. He was on his hands and knees picking through the many layers of disgusting, pissed on debris – several years of leaves, junk food wrappers, rotten lumber, old paint cans, and filthy textiles. He picked and picked and looked under everything. At some point he left – then I heard frustrated and outraged shouting coming from the factory parking lot next door. I looked over that fence. It was the same guy. Then he came back to resume picking. I packed up my tools and went back inside as my task was done. I could hear the guy talking to himself and hear things being moved around. I could see the fence periodically shaking as he bumped into it.
At least an hour later I wondered if he was still there. I went out in the front and walked to the sidewalk. This guy was now laying flat on his chest re-picking through that debris.
It was beyond pathetic.
I had noticed a real increase in people going back there to pick through that vile garbage. I assume that a rip off drug dealer is preying on the most vulnerable people. Like he (maybe she I don’t know) takes their money and tells them where to find the drugs he stashed. Except there are NO drugs.
In my old neighbourhood in Toronto, dealers were pretty crafty. I saw them tie tiny bags of crack to my neighbour’s bush in the alley for a customer to pick up. When they realized they were observed they made some ridiculous excuses. The bigger dealers would park on the street after parking enforcement had done their late night rounds, checking for residential permits. Consider these dudes wholesalers. They were not visiting anyone who lived on the street, but they returned throughout the night to get things out of their trunk to supply their smaller dealers on the rough street one block over. The smaller dealers also figured things out. My neighbour had a low brick wall at the front of their property, a nice sitting height. There were large bushes and a downspout. This lower level dealer was stashing his drug inventory for that night in my neighbour’s downspout ! The street level creeps also had it figured out, and knew to not get busted with too many grams of crack on their person. There was a sketchy 24 hour convenience store that was 9/10 on the terrifying scale. The crack dealers would make their cash transaction, then tell the person to go into the store as their crack would be under the 3rd jar of peanut butter – or whatever !
Maybe this happened before the picking guy, maybe it was after. I started peeking behind my opaque privacy panels to see what was coming and going on a daily basis. That trash moved around a LOT. One day there was a large sorry cactus in a pot and what appeared to be a boat or Jeep cover stashed back there. I reported it to the police who came by to have a look, but didn’t take the cover thing or cactus. I checked the local FB to see if either of these things had been reported stolen, but neither was mentioned.
In my old neighbourhood, bike theft was incredibly common. The MO was that one guy would steal a bike, then a block over pass it to his waiting pal. This way if anyone witnessed the theft, the guy who actually stole the bike, wearing a red shirt, had given it to his pal wearing a blue shirt. Then the guy in the blue shirt would ride the bike around, and call out a dollar value to people on the street – like “Nice bike, $ 50.00 !” There were notorious fence operations and chop shops. I witnessed a crew of bike couriers chasing a thief on a bike, deeply enraged. I watched an extremely angry guy having a confrontation on the main street with the thief who had just stolen his very unique custom bicycle. The thief was telling wild lies about how this was HIS bicycle and the angry victim would not let go, and other cyclists began to gather round…
My sense was that this strip was being used to stash small stolen goods for this kind of pass off. Local FB groups had begun posting footage of chronic offenders stashing items in various locations.
Contributing to this sense of community unease during COVID times, a “warming center” had been set up in a nearby building in January. Tent encampments were in the vicinity by the river. This was to help prevent people from freezing to death. Staff there offered hot drinks, snacks, clothing and connections to social agencies who might be able to help with housing. I thought that the mission of this program was good, but that it was sad that it had to exist at all.
Many local residents had begun to loudly complain about the warming center, as there was a sudden huge increase in used needles and other drug paraphernalia strewn in public spaces. Claims were made about an increase in property crime and trespassing. I normally waited for the bus in front of the center as there was a shade tree. After spring began, there were rough guys sprawled on the lawn, or sitting on the garden area by the building, crushing the plants. Guys had shopping carts and used the sidewalk to spread out and inventory their contents. There were loud shouting guys and hallucinating guys and a vomiting guy one day. It didn’t feel comfortable or safe at this stop anymore. When the warming center first opened, it seemed like an equal amount of men and women were using it, but now the visible ratio was more like 15:1.
I spoke to the staff at the warming center, to see if they had any connections to the Harm Reduction crew, to spread the word about a rip-off dealer in the area. I guess my attitude was different than most of the interactions they had with local residents, many of whom were extremely angry and confrontational about the center. The staff there took down my information, and gave me a flyer(which I already had) about numbers to call for homeless people in crisis, etc.
A few days later someone employed with the City contacted me, and I described the situation as best I could. Of course my cumulative frustrations about my gas station neighbour came pouring out. There is some type of initiative to address concerns/enforcement about encampments, mess, dangers.
So what happened ? A few days later I received an email that my complaint had been registered with Municipal Inspectors, regarding property standards. I sent an email to confirm this, and gave further contact information so a time could be arranged to view the issue from my side of the property line as well.
Then what happened ? Weeks later, NOTHING. Debris is still moving around, men are using the area as a urinal on a daily or possibly hourly basis.
Yesterday a credit card appeared, face up, at the very back of this strip, with a woman’s name. It didn’t fall out of her purse there. All I could do was report it to VISA…