When asked how often Sarah (name changed) sees drug activity in her cul-de-sac, she said, “every day.”
Sarah and her family have lived in Hummingbird Place in Comox for seven years. She said she loves the neighbourhood – it’s perfect for her family – but over the past four years, she feels it has become increasingly more dangerous.
It is not uncommon for Sarah to see someone zigzagging down the street, singing to themselves, or even have profanities shouted at her from a person across the road. These people all come and go from the same place: a house at the end of the cul-de-sac.
This house is owned by Amandio Santos, a landlord that owns a number of other properties throughout the Comox Valley, including two houses on 20th Street in Courtenay that have caused problems in the past.
“At first [the house] was vacant – it was quiet… kids were riding bikes around and playing in the street and really having those fun, safe family memories,” said Sarah.
“And then we started to see this transition of having these people who looked like panhandlers living there. That’s when we started seeing increased traffic – just drop-ins.”
Sarah said people would go up to the house, talk for a minute to someone through the door or window and then drive away. But she said some of the people also lingered in the area.
“It’s become this really difficult issue of having people just out of their minds on something, wandering down the street. I had one time where I’m pulling into my driveway and behind me was a minivan and they stopped at the top of the cul-de-sac and this woman literally fell out of the minivan and somehow made it to the house at the end of the street.”
She got the RCMP involved when the people started talking to her young children. She said she was unsure if the people were sober or not, but she has become increasingly concerned about her children’s safety.
“These kids are trying to play and you’re trying to shield them from this behaviour, but you’re also like, what do I do as a female if something were to happen or this person’s feeling really agitated right now.”
Sarah has no plans to move her family, saying they shouldn’t have to be the ones to move due to a problematic neighbour.
“We love where we live… It’s such a wonderful neighbourhood outside of this one house,” she said. “This is where we decided to put down our roots. The issue is the house, not us having to move.”
Another resident of Hummingbird Place, Jane (name changed), is also concerned about the property, saying that children can no longer play in the street because of people coming and going from the house.
“… Broad daylight drug deals, drunk women walking around, and random strangers in and out of the end road daily. I wonder how long can this go on? Why are we being forced to turn another cheek? How are we accepting this as normal?”
Jane said she is afraid for her safety and the safety of others who live in the cul-de-sac.
“I think about going out and telling those people on my street to quiet down almost every night but I’m afraid I will get attacked.
“I don’t want to wait for someone to get hurt. I am terrified for the safety of our children.”
RCMP presence increased
Sarah said the RCMP have been doing more drive-bys past the neighbourhood, but she said they have told her there’s nothing they can do unless they witness an illegal act taking place.
Monika Terragni with the Comox Valley RCMP said they are patrolling the area more often due to the number of concerns brought forward by local residents.
“Police have increased patrols in the area, looking for opportunities to reduce these calls and mitigate any crime occurring in the area. The Town of Comox, Comox Fire Rescue, and the Ministry of Housing have been engaged to assist in resolving neighbourhood concerns.”
Terragni said the last call for police attendance at the house was received on June 15, and that residents should continue calling and reporting suspicious activity.
“It is most helpful to receive these calls when the activity is occurring; however, all information is valuable and will be followed up by police officers.”
Landlord says ‘nothing strange’ going on
Amandio Santos said he has owned the property on Hummingbird Place for two and a half years. One year ago, the lot was rezoned and two duplexes were built on the back part of the property facing Anderton Road. The duplexes were sold, but Santos still owns the house at the end of Hummingbird Place.
Santos is in the process of selling his two properties on 20th Street. He said he has been contacted by the City of Courtenay “on and off about the problems about the drugs being sold out there.
“That’s pretty common in the City of Courtenay or across the world for that matter,” he said.
At Hummingbird Place, Santos denies that drugs are being sold there, saying that he’s “there everyday.” He then went on to say that what is happening at the house is normal for the Comox Valley.
“There’s nothing strange going on there other than this craziness of drugs that’s going on every day. That’s all that’s going on and nothing else.
“You know what’s going on on 20th Street and many places in the city? Well that’s what’s going on; nothing out of the normal. If you want to accept that, I don’t. Some people do, some people don’t.”
When asked for clarification about whether there is drug activity at the property, Santos said he does not know what happens there.
“No, I don’t know what they’re doing, that’s not my problem. I don’t know what they’re doing, but obviously there’s been some complaints, but I can’t control their lives, can I? If I could, I would.”
Santos said his plan is to restore the house on Hummingbird Place and sell it but adds that he is extremely busy and will get to it when he has time.