Kelowna mayor's crime task force falls flat in Rutland | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna mayor's crime task force falls flat in Rutland

Tom Dyas is presenting the findings of his year-long Mayor’s task force on crime reduction but already it’s not going over well in Rutland.

The report is going to council Monday, May 27, with a number of high level recommendations such as lobbying higher government on repeat offenders, treating drug addicted offenders and strengthening existing programs.

Christopher Bocskei has been active in the Rutland community for years, is on the board of the Rutland Residents Association and formed a popular Facebook group for residents to share reports of crime.

“I wouldn’t call it a plan,” he says. “I don’t see any solutions for what’s going on.”

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Dyas’s committee consists largely of City of Kelowna staff, business associations, social service agencies and laypeople. Bocskei said he doubts they are aware of the full size of the problem.

“I see it as them telling us what they think they should solve,” Bocskei says. “Why did they have to form the committee? It was a waste of money. Why form a committee unless they're going to actually get down on the ground, come walk around Rutland. I never saw them walking around Rutland looking at our issues.”

The report is light on detail at this stage. If councillors agree Monday, the recommendations will go to staff to assess costs and implementation. It breaks them down seven ways: Enhance Business Improvement Area community safety programs; increase resident engagement and education in crime prevention/reduction; increase support for treatment and recovery; establishment of sobering and assessment centres; multi-care site creation; tiered response advocacy; repeat offenders provincial advocacy.

As Bocskei sees it, none of the recommendations will make buses safer, won’t deal with camping in parks, won’t address theft and threats of violence, or even open drug use around schools, parks and grocery stores.

“People are choosing to avoid places now where there are people that are actively using drugs because we're getting violent behaviour now with them. You know, it wasn’t this bad before, but now that there's so many, the possibility of (crime and violence) happening has increased exponentially.”

He says a number of people in Rutland were hoping this committee would deliver on some basic themes, including simply enforcing the laws as they exist, such as keeping open drug use away from schools, enforcing rules about where homeless people can camp.

“Here's an example: Show up,” he says. “There are so many times when people call about a bike being stolen or a crime being committed, and (police) don't show up.”

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He said Dyas came to a twice yearly community clean up last year. Bocskei specifically asked if he could be on the committee, but he says Dyas told him the committee was already full. If he had the chance, he said he would have raised all these issues while looking for solutions.

His group offered input to the committee anyway but got no reply.

He’s concerned more about Rutland, where he is active, and where he says crime and social disorder has been growing over the past four years. He correlates his perception with the timing of a number of social housing initiatives in the area including relocation of a social services centre.

“People say (crime) happens everywhere. Well, no… I don't see it in Kettle Valley. I don't see it in Wilden. I don't see it in Gallaghers Canyon. I don't see it in upper Mission,” he says. “What I see is a population of homeless people that had been pushed into Rutland. They knew that they were going to follow them to the social services office. They gave it to us and they didn't put the supports there first. And now they're just trying to backtrack and make it seem like ‘we got your back, we’re helping you out.’ No, they're not helping us out. They're not even getting us back to where we were. Rutland was a much nicer family-oriented neighbourhood before.”

He says the committee missed an important opportunity, not just to address crime, but to give people some hope.

“I think a lot of people have been following what's going on with (the committee), but a lot of people too have been giving up hope that the city is going to put any time or invest anything in us. That's so common. Well, people have just said they've given up on the city performing for Rutland.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Marshall Jones or call 250-718-2724 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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