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Cabbagetown residents blame supervised injection site for crime spike

Some residents in Cabbagetown are blaming a local supervised injection site for an increase in crime and drugs in their community.

They voiced their concerns at a town hall meeting on Wednesday night attended by police and the harm reduction workers who run the facility near Sherbourne Street and Dundas Street East, called Street Health.

“It’s just escalated to a state where it’s out of control,” said Mark Cavin, who’s lived in the neighbourhood for 17 years. He says he was recently attacked in his home.

“My objection is, principally, they’re in the wrong location, it’s too small a facility, and they’re not doing their job properly,” added organizer John Dimon.

Street Health runs a supervised injection site made possible by a federal exemption, but it is not a city-sanctioned facility. The site was originally supposed to be provincially funded, but organizers had to reconfigure its operating model after Ontario pulled funding in March.

It now runs on private donations.

Operators of the facility, which also acts as a health agency for the homeless, say there is a great need for its services in the neighbourhood.

“At the corner of Sherbourne and Dundas, there’s the second-highest calls for overdoses to EMS in that area, so we felt we were definitely needed,” said Joyce Rankin, a nurse at Street Health.

“We don’t need less overdose prevention sites, we need more. We need more in our area, we need more in Toronto,” she added.

Crime stats trending upwards

However, crime statistics from Toronto police suggest that residents may have reason to be concerned.

According to the force’s last figures, the area has seen a 75 per cent increase in break-and-enters compared to 2018.

A doctor and harm reduction advocate who attended the meeting said there may actually be too many supervised injection sites in the area east of downtown.

“This is a city-wide, country-wide problem. This is not just a problem at the Sherbourne corridor,” said Suzanne Shoush.

“Yet we concentrate so many of the harm reduction services there, and that’s what’s created this very unsafe environment.”

Street Health’s current federal exemption runs until January 2020, at which point local residents are calling for the supervised injection site to be shuttered.

Police say they are also committed to hiring more officers over the next five years in a bid to cut down on crime in the area.

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