Words by Andrei Dezsi and Ezra Black
Reporting by King’s Investigative Workshop
Georgina Lee sits on a plastic chair at the Dartmouth North Community Centre on Highfield Park Drive in Dartmouth. Her hands are clasped on the table in front of her.
Lee is 52 and she moved to this neighbourhood 33 years ago, along with her infant son. It offered the cheapest rent she could find.
Over those years, she’s raised a child, held down a job and done it all as a single mom.
She’s seen a lot of change.
“At one time, in this neighborhood, you could walk the street at two, three, four o’clock in the morning and wouldn’t think twice about it,” she says. “But now you wouldn’t. By the time, nine, ten o’clock comes, you’re not outside… because of the things going on in the area.”
Indeed, Pinecrest-Highfield is now one of metro’s toughest and poorest places. Analysis of more than 650,000 calls for service to Halifax police, shows that while police sub-zone E502, which includes Pinecrest-Highfield, has about 3.5 per cent of the population of the three Halfax police patrol districts, it has about seven per cent of all the calls for service for serious incidents. Most of the crime is concentrated in the densely populated western half of the area making that area’s rate of calls even higher.
Pinecrest-Highfield is one of the most densely populated areas of metro, rivaling neighbourhoods closer to the urban core in Halifax, but lacking access to the multitude of services available to residents of the Peninsula. A tiny Sobey’s is the only local grocery store, and the neighbourhood library is no bigger than a large living room.
Census Tract 114, the Statistics Canada area that includes Pinecrest-Highfield Park has a high percentage of single parents, low incomes and high rates of use of government assistance. Many people live in shoddy housing.