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Centre Square Mall wants a loitering bylaw

Councillor sees it as part of larger problem

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 04/03) - Shopkeepers in the Centre Square Mall back in 1996 were complaining about loitering teens in Yellowknife.

In fact it was so bad the mall removed the ornamented fountain, and Grandma Lee's erected a sign banning high school students during school hours.

NNSL Photo

The Franklin Avenue entrance to the Centre Square Mall is usually crowded with people smoking and hanging out. - Kathleen Lippa/NNSL photo

Today, Centre Square mall manager Jennifer Marchant says, "It's Yellowknife," with a laugh when asked about people loitering outside entranceways to the mall.

"From an entrance point of view, it's really awkward," Marchant conceded. "It depends on where the city property line is.

"There's very little we can do moving somebody on. There's a certain amount of common sense.

"If the person is intoxicated or abusive, then we send out security."

The Centre Square Mall has it's own security: maintenance crew part-time security, school hour patrols from 12-1 p.m. then at 3:30-4:30 p.m., and weekend security provided by Twilite Security Ltd.

"But," added Marchant about the entrances, particularly the one across the street from the Gold Range, "It would be nice to have somebody in a chair out there all the time."

Marchant thinks the City of Yellowknife should step in with a loitering bylaw.

There is no loitering bylaw currently in place.

"It's something we're researching right now," said Tim Mercer, director of corporate services for the city.

"And we're currently researching what other jurisdictions are doing in terms of loitering bylaws."

Through the territory's Cities, Towns and Villages Act, explained Mercer, "we do have the authority to regulate trespassing and also public nuisances."

And the city hasn't had to go this route yet.

"But there have been calls from the public to do that."

Mercer wouldn't say who in the public has approached the city about the bylaw.

Marchant said she would like to see the city take a stand on loitering, if not for the Centre Square Mall, at least for other places, like schools.

"Somebody loitering outside a school is worse than somebody loitering outside a mall," Marchant said.

The city continues to look at the issue.

"It's something that's been on the agenda for a while," said Coun. David McCann. "We're a community centre. And we have people here that have too much time on their hands.

"But I think the root causes (of loitering) are more than just people hanging around. There are bigger social problems."

McCann said the city wants to address these issues "collectively," rather than just lay down a strict no loitering bylaw.

"We're trying to look at the problem in conjunction with other agencies," McCann said, mentioning health and social services and the police. It is "easy to wave a wand," said McCann, and call for more police protection or a city bylaw.

"Unfortunately we don't think that's going to work," he said.

Business owners like Adrian Bell chose to roll with the public.

"It's always a bit of a problem in the mall," said Adrian Bell, owner of Javaroma and Mainstreet Pizza when asked about loitering in Yellowknife.

"You've got your teenagers hanging around. But I can't tell you I've ever been bothered by it.

"I grew up in this town, so I probably did some loitering and hanging around as a kid."