The Nelson Police Department is currently grappling with an early influx of seasonal transients who have been sleeping on private property and causing drunken disturbances downtown.
“We get this every year, but this time around it’s happening really early,” said Sgt. Paul Bayes.
“The evening’s have been really cold, and with the shelter in transition between Stepping Stones and the new building, we’re seeing lots of people in bank vestibules, doorways, on people’s private properties.”
And though many of the temporary squatters have agreed to move on without incident, police have also encountered some resistance from the nomadic visitors.
“Their history and demeanor will reflect how they’re dealt with. But if they’re severely out of control, if they’re a safety risk to themselves or somebody else, then they’re coming in overnight.”
He said they end up holding someone overnight “every weekend, guaranteed.”
Bayes personally was on scene for the recent arrest of a drunken, intoxicated man who uttered threats downtown and led a multi-person chase past the Hume Hotel.
“It’s part of our job, and it happens. There’s always something else going on in the community that we’d like to devote more resources to, but with incidents like that it’s not something we can just ignore.”
Bayes said the incidents have been time-consuming.
“Maybe if we weren’t dealing with this guy passed out on the street, or waiting for an ambulance to show up, we would be patrolling these alleys to see if someone’s about to boot in a door,” said Bayes, alluding to the recent robberies of The Royal and Max and Irma’s.
And though those investigations are ongoing, Bayes said there have been no further break-ins reported since.
Bayes reminded the community that those caught drinking in public can face a $230 fine, and those found intoxicated could receive a $115 penalty.
“Personally I can’t afford a $230 fine for a two-dollar beer. You got to know your limit and stay within in, to quote ICBC,” he said.
He said it’s not only the nomadic visitors who are responsible for the outdoor drinking, as they’ve also been catching Nelson residents pre-drinking en route to downtown.
“I just want to remind people that sometimes you want to have a beer on the way to the bar, but it’s not allowed and there’s a good reason for that. Please respect that it’s against the law.”