A business owner is questioning a report that casts a positive light on supervised drug consumption sites across the province, including Red Deer.
Jason MacDonald, who owns Pure Fitness CrossFit at 5230 53rd Ave., about four doors down from the site, says he witnesses and hears stories from his members and friends about the goings on at the facility.
The report by the Alberta Community Council on HIV, which was addressed in an Advocate article published Tuesday, states the sites provide a cost-effective and efficient health service.
“When I read the article, we had a number of first responders in the class who work in the city, and a doctor, and they all read the article with me, and said that ‘it’s completely false.’
“Definitely, six to 10 times a day, we will see emergency vehicles, i.e., police, fire and ambulance,” said MacDonald.
The report states: “evidence has found SCS sites have no impact on criminal offences in communities.”
The business owner, who has been in his location for about nine years, said he has seen a spike in crime in the neighbourhood in the past 18 months.
MacDonald said he sees people trying to check if car doors are unlocked in the area on an hourly basis.
“Just come down here and spend a couple hours in this area, and you’ll see exactly what’s going on.”
He remembers an incident earlier this summer when teenagers were kept indoors as a precaution after a fitness class ended, because there were five people right outside the front door.
“They were under the influence, so our teenagers were locked inside, and our instructor had to call the police.”
During other instances, he has seen people with backpacks with multiple laptops inside (which the business owner assumes they were selling) and people injecting needles right in front of the business.
The business owner has installed a bike rack for gym members to protect their bikes from being stolen.
The fence at the back of the business has been cut multiple times, and items from the backyard have been stolen, including tools, a lawnmower and trampoline, he said.
With all he witnesses on a daily basis, MacDonald does not believe Red Deerians are getting the true picture and accurate information about what is going on.
He believes crime wouldn’t have been as bad as it is in the area if the City of Red Deer had listened to the concerns of business owners during an open house before the site opened in October. He feels the city isn’t standing up for local business people like himself.
MacDonald plans to attend a session being held by a provincial government panel reviewing the sites in Red Deer Sept. 10.
Editor’s note: The city submitted the following statement Thursday afternoon: “Although the article indicated that the City of Red Deer approved the overdose prevention site, the site was mandated by the previous minister of health on behalf of the government of Alberta without city land use approval or public consultation and continues to be under the authority of the ministry of health.”