Wednesday, Aug. 11, 1993

Rosie DiManno

p. A7.

If part of T.O. feels like Soweto, we've got trouble

They've called off the dogs in the Bathurst Quay Cityhome complex. But not the privately hired security guards who chase black kids through the neighborhood, harass visitors walking their girlfriends back home, threaten residents with eviction and browbeat their way through the community making citizen's arrests.

That is one view of a particularly acrimonious situation which has pitted neighbor against neighbor in the high density residential community at the far western edge of Harbourfront.

The other view, expressed by most members of the Harbourfront Quay Neighborhood Association, is that the aggressive security tactics undertaken by Intelligarde International are just what the neighborhood needed and give us back the damn dogs.

Those dogs, Cityhome officials belatedly acknowledged, were perhaps not such a bright idea. Particularly since the animals kept on leaches by their Intelligarde handlers, had this nasty habit of lunging at area residents and their pets.

The dogs first showed up during a security blitz about a month ago and disappeared last week. "I suppose the image of guard dogs (in a housing development) does have a kind of Nazi feel to it," concedes Lesley Watson, acting director of operations for Cityhome. "But we were responding to a request from the tenants themselves. We're now reviewing our policy."

In fact, Cityhome still uses guard dogs in about one-quarter of its 70 buildings (excluding houses) in Metro and has done so since Intelligarde took over the security contract in the late '80s. "We have a responsibility to provide adequate security to our tenants," Watson argues. "In this situation, some people saw it as overkill."

The animals were particularly offensive to tenants in the four independent co-ops that share the neighborhood with the two Cityhome buildings, many of whom fired off complaints to local Councillor Liz Amer.

One letter-writer recounts how her step-daughter, while escorting a friend to the streetcar stop, was detained and interrogated by security staff. "During the course of the inquiry, the security employee's dog lunged at her," writes Brynne Teall. "She was (also) accused of having a can of beer in her hands. In fact, she was clearly holding a bag of potato chips."

Another co-op resident watched as Intelligarde staff chased a young black man through the streets. "As far as I could tell, he was just walking with a girl," says Fiona Stewart, who has recently joined the board of the neighborhood association. "I talked to the guy later. He wasn't charged with anything, not even trespassing. But he was shaken up."

The guards, witnessing this conversation, then extended a bit of attitude in Stewart's direction. "I live in one of the co-ops, not in a Cityhome," she explains. "They said I was trespassing. Trespassing? I looked down and I had one foot on Cityhome property."

There is a significant amount of ill-will between Cityhome and co-op residents. The predominant view among Cityhomers, one seconded by Intelligarde staff, is that the interlopers and loiterers are co-op kids. They might all live cheek-by-jowl within a few blocks but there is little cozy commingling. The overwhelming sentiment at Cityhome is: Stay off our turf. This, even though -- apart from one community centre (in fact, a collection of portables shoe-horned into a tiny apron of grass) -- there is no place in the wretchedly designed neighborhood for young people to hang out: no restaurants, no mall, no convenience store.

"This comes down, largely, to a loitering issue," says Robin Ulster, the youth worker at the community centre, who hears the kids grievances and worries that the sledgehammer security response has only exacerbated the situation.

The Cityhome tenants, says Intelligarde president Ross McLeod, are worried about crime and tired of the noise. (Interviews with police yesterday indicated crime activity in the area is no more pronounced than anywhere else in the division.)

"The vast majority of (Cityhome) tenants support our use of the dogs," says McLeod. "I guess it's impossible to look like a hero to everyone."

Or, as one of the unimpressed co-op residents put it: "I feel like I'm living in Soweto." How ironic that she is, in fact, living on Bishop Tutu Boulevard.

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