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Troubled Duncan highway corridor chasing business away

Discarded needles, graffiti and even small fires plaguing area shops
Shelly Bell, manager of Destination Motorcycle on the highway corridor, holds up discarded needles that were collected in front of the shop. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

After spending just about a half a year in their location on the highway corridor in Duncan, the owners of Destination Motorcycle are already looking to move.

Spokeswoman Shelly Bell said she and the owner of the business, which rents motorcycles, are frustrated with having to deal with the ongoing social issues at the site.

She said the garbage that is regularly left in front of the shop in the mornings, including discarded needles, that workers have to clean up, the graffiti that covers the outside walls of businesses on the strip and even small fires left by homeless people trying to stay warm at night are getting out of hand.


“The business next door and us decided to leave the outdoor lights on at night to try to keep people away from the storefronts, but that just seemed to draw more people here,” Bell said.

“Nobody seems willing to do anything about it, including our landlord. Everybody just wants to pass the buck, so nothing gets done. When we talk to the police, they say that it’s the nature of being on the strip, but we’re paying the police through taxes for their protection here and they should do more patrols in this area and do something about these problems.”

In 2019, the City of Duncan, the Municipality of North Cowichan and Cowichan Tribes decided to work together, in collaboration with community stakeholders, including the Cowichan Valley School District, health and social service providers, RCMP, local businesses and many others, to implement a Safer Community Plan to address crime and public disorder in the area of the TCH where Destination Motorcycle is located.


With investments from the partners, the Safer Community Plan involves increased enforcement presence along the highway corridor, including daytime patrols conducted by RCMP, Blackbird Security, and bylaw enforcement.

But the problems continue regardless, with businesses in the area continuing to complain about the social issues that Bell describes.

“We’re frustrated and tired of all this so we’re looking for another location,” Bell said.

“We also need more space for a repair shop, but we’ll be happy just to get away from here.”

Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples said the city’s bylaw department has received just one call from Destination Motorcycles in the time they have been at their present location.

She said Duncan, North Cowichan, and Cowichan Tribes’ Safety Corridor initiative to address crime and public disorder along the TCH continues to work closely with business in the area and provide them with support.

“Recently, continued advocacy from the city and other jurisdictions has led to an additional RCMP officer and we continue to advocate to various provincial ministers, including the ministers of Attorney General and Housing and Mental Health and Addictions, to advocate for housing and appropriate wrap around supports required, such as mental-health services and supports, detox beds and rehabilitation programs and services,” Staples said.

Rachel Hastings, Duncan’s manager of building and bylaw services, said the city’s bylaw office does not receive a high volume of complaints from the highway that’s within its jurisdiction.

“That does not mean that the bylaw office isn’t aware of the challenges that are faced within the highway corridor as was indicative of the implementation of the safer community plan,” she said.

“With the development of the ‘Who to Call’ brochure, businesses and property owners within the corridor were encouraged to contact the safety ambassadors first before escalating matters to the bylaw office level, and I know that is being well utilized. We are doing our best to support where we can, as these community issues are beyond our capacity and control to eliminate.”

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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