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When the St. Catharines General Hospital closed, business owner Murray Scott hoped for the best. He thought developers might turn the building into upscale condos or apartments, which would change the face of the Queenston Street neighbourhood where he operates his busy wholesale picture frame business.
Three years later the hospital sits empty, and the prostitutes still ply their trade on Gale Crescent in front of his office. I watch prostitutes being picked up in cars, or making their way into the park with johns all the time. Last October, the Niagara Regional Police performed a two-day prostitution sweep that resulted in 14 arrests. They busted two other people for possession of illegal narcotics.
They have done their sweeps and dealt with some of the drug crime. They scatter — but as soon as the police move on, they return. There are no simple solutions. The ultimate goal would be to transform the area. Catharines a kinder, gentler place by bringing together government, individuals and social agencies to solve problems.
Compassionate Cities is about care plus action. We need to have supports in place when we are dealing with these issues. Catharines regional councillor Andy Petrowski said there have been a lot of hollow words thrown around about Queenston Street over the years. The police have had officers on bike patrols in the area since May. There has been an effort to improve sightlines by clearing out brush along the street and at the edge of Centennial Park, where the sex trade activities take place.
The city is improving street lighting in the area with the switch from incandescent to LED lighting. It is also working with Start Me Up Niagara, which also operates on Gale Crescent, and other service providers to enhance services at the street level. I know the mayor is doing that as well.