Kamloops councillor proposes downtown surveillance, security but it's not enough | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops News

Kamloops councillor proposes downtown surveillance, security but it's not enough

As municipal government discuss which projects to fund on their own and which to lobby to provincial agencies, Kamloops business owners are less concerned with whose responsibility it is and more with seeing solutions to social issues facing the Kamloops streets.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO

Mindy Sandhu didn't expect to end up in the hospital because of problems at her business, but the last year has been especially difficult.

"I was so stressed out," Sandhu said. "I'm getting threatened in my own facility. What did we do not to feel safe in our own building?"

Sandhu co-owns Stereo Warehouse with her sister, Nina Johal, on West Victoria Street.

Stereo Warehouse sits across from multiple supportive housing facilities, where Mindy and Nina have been victims of verbal threats and have seen a rise in property crime on the street, including arson attempts on their building.

"When I work late and leave when it's dark out, I look across the street and there's only ten lights on (at the Rosethorn). There's 42 rooms there, it's not even full," Sandhu said.

The sisters on West Victoria aren't alone in their issues either.

A common thread among the business community on West Victoria Street is they want to see the population that lingers around that block get the support they need effectively, and believe if they were, businesses would not be having as many issues with property crime, excessive littering and threats.

READ MORE: Kamloops criminals got busier under pandemic; Okanagan crime went down

There’s now a security patrol on West Victoria to deter property damage.

"Security came in May and it's been helpful, there's been less damage," Reid Hamer-Jackson, owner of Tru Market, said. "But there's only one for the whole street. I'd like to see help for these folks like they said there would be."

City council is aware of the issues facing both the people who need these facilities and downtown business owners.

In a meeting on Feb. 9, councillors had a lively and heated discussion about the limits of municipal government and what to do about appeasing business owners while providing services to people who need supportive housing.

But ultimately, after councillors took turns airing their grievances about a lack of action and solutions, they reached no conclusions.

Today Coun. Bill Sarai put forward a notice of motion to add security to patrol downtown 24/7 and offer grants to downtown businesses to install surveillance on the streets.

"The security will operate through the downtown core and up the Tranquille business section until (Community Service Officers) are up and running," Coun. Sarai said in an interview. "(The cameras) will be similar to what Kelowna already has."

The surveillance plan would face cameras towards the streets and sidewalks, with the condition that if there is a crime, police can access that footage. Coun. Sarai hopes the surveillance cameras and added security would act as a deterrent.

"These issues are complex, but we don't want to demonize either someone who's homeless or a business owner," Coun. Arjun Singh said in an interview with iNFOnews.ca.

Government efforts, according to Coun. Singh, are stalled by jurisdictional issues, and making services between healthcare, housing and finding employment work together in the interest of the municipality has been difficult. But councillors also want to avoid taking the responsibility of tackling complex social issues entirely into municipal hands.

"I think the city would go a long way to show the province we want to see forward action. If we show we can make progress and ask for services, my expectation is provincial agencies would put forth more work to help fund solutions,” Singh said.

READ MORE: Fraudulent CERB claims have lowered crime Penticton RCMP says

In the Feb. 9 council meeting, Singh hinged the success of his career as a politician on the homelessness and drug epidemic saying: “I won’t be successful as a city councillor if we don’t crack this nut.”

Coun. Sarai says effective wrap-around services and the Four Pillar Approach to treatment have been “non-existent” in Kamloops.

“There are big gaps in the system because Interior Health and B.C. Housing are not bringing their solutions together,” he said. "We're trying to do what the city is able to, but avoid going down the rabbit hole of (provincial) health and housing business. We want to avoid showing the provincial and federal governments we'll do it on our own. I don't think taxpayers want to pay for that when it's a provincial responsibility."

While city officials deliberate over whose responsibility it is to address the homeless population and drug epidemic, the Kamloops business community is more concerned about seeing action and progress.

Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association executive director, Carl DeSantis, says they’ve seen an increase in property crime and “negative behaviour” since public health measures came in place, limiting many usual visitors from travelling downtown.

The association represents downtown businesses, many of which don’t already have security patrols.

“Business owners and consumers have been raising concerns about inappropriate behaviours. We are collectively at a boiling point,” DeSantis said. “The problems you’re seeing and hearing about are very real. Some already have security cameras throughout the downtown core and they’re effective. Security guards are a good strategy, but they’re not a long term solution.”

The 2020 annual RCMP report hasn’t been released yet, but up to September, property crime has risen just over 1% compared to 2019. However, that’s not to say business owners are wrong about their claims. Break and enters in businesses rose 98% in the last RCMP report compared to 2019, along with many smaller instances not being reported to police at all.

"Many of these incidents are not being reported to police," DeSantis said. "Especially some of the less costly things, such as graffiti. Which is unfortunate, but business owners have lots on the go."

Regardless of whose responsibility it is to deliver effective social services, Kamloops business owners are waiting to see progress - like many cities across the province.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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