City needs to take lead on improving public safety in downtown Kelowna: report - InfoNews

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City needs to take lead on improving public safety in downtown Kelowna: report

A Kelowna RCMP officer and a Kelowna bylaw officer on patrol in downtown Kelowna.
November 22, 2018 - 2:36 PM

KELOWNA - City Hall needs to head a committee of key stakeholders in order to improve efforts to clean up downtown, former RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon says in the public safety report he will present to city council on Monday.

In the past, groups met at critical times to discuss issues but that has not been a sustained coordinated effort, his report states.

“Given the crisis this community finds itself in today and the outcry of the business community and citizens of this city, a different approach is now required: a sustained, collaborative approach that includes BC Housing, RCMP, Bylaw Services, Interior health, social service agencies – including the Journey Home Society, business leaders and the City of Kelowna working together,” McKinnon states in his report.

A good place to start is to develop guidelines on the placement of shelters and supportive housing in the city, he said.

Calls to the RCMP for service increased by more than 1,600 in the past year (to Sept. 2018), a four per cent increase, McKinnon’s report states. The city’s bylaw services department has seen a growing demand for things like cleaning, sharps pick-up and bylaw infractions.

One example McKinnon gives is the increase of requests to bylaw officers concerning homeless individuals to 445 as of September 2018 versus 375 for all of 2017.

McKinnon made more than two dozen recommendations in this report.

A key one is the forming of the committee to develop strategies. Here are some others:

  • Add more RCMP officers (no number was specified).
  • Have four RCMP officers on a dedicated bike patrol May 1 to Oct. 15 each year with that number doubled for July and August.
  • Look into training bylaw officers as Special Provincial Constables so they can enforce provincial criminal laws.
  • Hire a full-time manager to oversee private security that costs the city $3 million per year (which includes $1.6 million for the airport). Private companies had trouble providing staff at key times.
  • Create a Community Court.
  • Lobby for more treatment facilities.
  • Set up a permanent safe injection site.
  • Provide more year-round washrooms.
  • Look at transit options for homeless people.
  • Look at installing drinking fountains downtown.

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