Criminal activity rampant in Penticton's downtown core, says business association president - InfoNews

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Criminal activity rampant in Penticton's downtown core, says business association president

Penticton's Nanaimo Square on a quiet February afternoon. Downtown Penticton Association President Ryan Graham says not enough is being done to control illegal activity taking place throughout the day in the square.
February 07, 2018 - 7:30 PM

PENTICTON - Criminal activity is out of control in Penticton’s downtown, says the president of the downtown business association.

Downtown Penticton Association President Ryan Graham told Penticton city council yesterday, Feb, 6, that business owners were dealing with safety and criminal issues in the downtown core, saying thousands of needles were being left on downtown streets every month.

Calling it a “needle epidemic,” he said business owners were under siege as they dealt with drug addicts using business washrooms as injection sites, adding calls to police to report the incidents went unanswered.

The comments were made during a presentation Graham made to city council at Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting.

Graham told council the open consumption of alcohol in the street 24 hours per day, seven days per week, was now the norm at several locations in the downtown core, calling for police to take back the downtown.

Graham said the issue of drug addicts and homeless asking for money was affecting the lives of seniors living at Charles Manor on Martin Street, where he said many of the residents refused to leave their apartments for fear of being accosted by these individuals.

“People’s comments indicate they don’t come downtown after dark,” he said. “From what I’ve heard, we all want to work together with the RCMP to fix this, but the faith’s not there."

He referred to it as a “culture” where police drive through the downtown area but ignore infractions happening in plain view.

“What we’re asking for is very simple. What we’d like to see, instead of driving by, is an on-foot presence,” he said.

Coun. Judy Sentes said she was under the impression there had been “incentive” for officers to stop and get out on foot patrol.

“I’m not sure what the incentive is, but they need to make it a lot better… as far as I’m concerned, it’s not happening,” Graham said.

Penticton Chief Administrative Officer Peter Weeber called Graham’s presence at the meeting “timely,” saying the situation was coming to a head. He noted the city worked with the RCMP to establish a community enforcement group in December, which is headed by Cpl. Laurie Rock.

He expressed an interest in working with the Downtown Penticton Association to work as part of a team to address the issues put forward by Graham.

Penticton RCMP detachment Superintendent Ted De Jager also addressed council at the meeting. He offered to investigate any unanswered calls for service, brought to his attention, but said a police file number would be necessary.

He pointed out Rock’s enforcement group was a city-wide initiative,  not strictly targeting downtown, but said more police resources could be allocated to the downtown area through use of overtime budgets.

De Jager said police would be willing to do their part in changing cultural behaviour, noting police lived and worked in the city and had a personal stake in criminal activity taking place within it.

“I don’t know what else to do for the most addicted, sick and vulnerable in our society. We are not going to solve that with the handcuffs on my belt. We are not going to solve that by giving tickets to people who don’t have a home, let alone the funding to pay for them,” he said.

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