“This is not the same city we grew up in as little as 20 years ago. The drugs have taken over.”
These are the words of Dr. Phil Nickerson, a neuroscientist who is no longer a North Bay resident, but with his parents and sister still living in town, is a frequent visitor.
His is a unique perspective, having grown up in North Bay, then seeing snapshots of the city with each visit over the two decades since his departure, all while keeping up from afar with the online media reports of what he terms as increasing violence and drug-related crime in the city.
Saturday night, Nickerson says the Premier Road home of his parents was invaded by a 20-year-old man, high on drugs. His 76-year-old father defended his mother who is terminally ill, bed-ridden and defenceless, and their home against the raging younger man. Nickerson’s mother has been given a short time to live and the elder Nickerson is her personal caregiver.
Nickerson says his father “got some shots in,” before a guest staying at their home intervened and the intruder relented and moved down the street, where he entered a neighbour’s home and was eventually arrested.
The elder Nickerson has some soreness after the encounter. The younger Nickerson, who grew up in that same home, wonders what has happened to his old neighbourhood, to the city in general?
According to the Nickersons, this is not the first home invasion on their quiet street. Although this recent incident appears to be random, Nickerson wonders how much the age demographic has led to the area being targeted by thieves. Elderly people tend to have prescription medication and are less likely to fight back, he says.
Nickerson has lived in various locales across the country and, although it took some time, he recognizes the drug issues that big cities face have crept into smaller markets like North Bay.
Nickerson says that the experience for his parents has exacerbated an already trying situation due to his mother’s terminal brain cancer diagnosis but that the neighbours have reached out to help out as they always do. He says someone has already been to the family home to see about repairing the door that the culprit kicked in. He also says his family is grateful for the quick and compassionate response by the North Bay Police Service.
It is this sense of community gives Nickerson hope for his parents to be able to live in their home without fear, and on a grander scale, for the city itself.