KELOWNA - Coun. Charlie Hodge is frustrated by the Kelowna’ s red zone and wants proof the system used to keep prolific offenders from the downtown core really works.
Hodge has submitted to city staff and the Kelowna RCMP a list of questions he would like to see answered including statistics that could verify its effectiveness.
“We’ve hired all these new police and bylaw officers and security which should be more than enough to monitor downtown,” Hodge asks. “I want to know if (the red zone) is worth our support or if we still need it."
The red zone, as it is informally known, covers most of downtown Kelowna. Crown prosectors will ask for a red-zone exclusion during the sentencing phase of a criminal trial, supposedly focusing on repeat offenders who live in the area.
Red zones are used in other B.C. communities including Vernon. Once in place, it allows local RCMP to pick up an offender on the spot if found inside the red zone without permission and charge them with breach of conditions.
Hodge says his own research shows the red zone in Kelowna was put in place in 1992, the direct result of surging street crime in the downtown core and demands from downtown businesses to do something about it.
He feels the net effect of the red zone has been to push the busiest of criminals into residential areas around it, away from where police can best monitor them.
“I should know, I live on the edge of it and I’ve seen a significant increase in crime and homelessness in our neighbourhood in the last six years,” Hodge adds.
Most of the social service agencies these people rely on are inside the red zone, he says, leaving them to rely on temporary exemptions for things like meetings with probation officers and medical appointments.
“It defies logic that you would ban these people from where the services are,” Hodge says. “How are they going to know which day they are allowed in? Some of them don’t even know what day of the week it is.”
He is aware downtown businesses are a constant source of pressure to keep the lid on downtown street crime, but says they should also be asking if the red zone actually does what it’s supposed to do.
“I get that the downtown core is your financial hook, as the downtown goes, so goes your community, but does that mean it’s at the cost of neighbourhoods around it?" he says.
Hodge says he knows of at least one local judge who has been openly critical of the red zone in the past and says he knows of social service workers who believe it to be not only ineffective, but harmful for some clients.
However, Hodge says he’s willing to keep an open mind if police can show him the red zone works.
“Is it working, is it measurable, that’s all I want to know.”
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