Kelowna woman starts group to prevent crime in downtown and Okanagan Rail Trail | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna woman starts group to prevent crime in downtown and Okanagan Rail Trail

A stretch of the Okanagan Rail Trail along Kalamalka Lake.

A Kelowna resident and victim of theft is forming a group to focus efforts on preventing crime on the Okanagan Rail Trail and the downtown core.

Andrea Del Col spent less than a year in the Central Okanagan when her bikes were stolen from her apartment complex on Leon Avenue.

“As beautiful as the historic neighbourhood was, I found that I was seeing a lot of vagrancy and drug addicts and homelessness,” she said, adding she called the RCMP and filed a report about the bikes but there was little response from police officers.

In addition to experiencing theft, she became angry when she saw that a teen was beaten and mugged while walking on the Okanagan Rail Trail earlier this month.

READ MORE: Teen robbed, assaulted on Okanagan Rail Trail has fractured skull, collapsed lung

“I’ve noticed that we need to have an action committee,” she said. “My direction and my thought was let’s take it back, let’s make it safe but I can’t do it alone.”

Del Col started a Facebook group and will have the first Take back our streets (Kelowna) meeting Dec. 4 at the City Park tennis courts from 1 to 3 p.m.

“Our goal is to walk the downtown core, walk the rail trail and document what we see,” she said, adding the patrollers will help identify risks in the areas and also share educational resources with citizens to help protect their material goods.

“I want to do it the right way. I don’t condone violence, we’re seeing a lot of vigilantism,” she said.

Del Col is also open to working with the RCMP, she said.

She’d like to see warming stations set up along the rail trail, to provide education for users.

“We want to establish a safe environment for the citizens of Kelowna and the Okanagan,” she said.

The first meeting will be a meet and greet, and Del Col said about 25 residents are serious about taking part. Her Facebook group has gathered more than 600 people.

“I don’t know what to do and I felt like I needed to do something for the community,” she said. “If we can raise awareness that there are people who care, that’s my thing.”

Kelowna RCMP crime statistics presented to city council showed there were 35,000 calls for service made in the last six months, as crime in the city is returning to pre-pandemic levels.

In the last 20 years, Supt. Tara Triance, with the Kelowna RCMP, said she has seen a greater reluctance for the province to keep people in jail while awaiting trial, which has a huge impact on police work levels but also on the public.

“If they are left in the community until such time as their trials, the likelihood is that they will be dealt with multiple times – 30 to 40 times,” Triance said to council Nov. 22.

Courts are also less likely to send people to jail who are homeless, drug-addicted or have mental health issues, leaving it to police to deal with them.

READ MORE: Crime returning to pre-pandemic levels in Kelowna: RCMP

“There needs to be adequate facilities in the community to address drug addiction so that, if someone is choosing not to use substances, they can actually access in a timely manner – not only counselling services but really quick counselling services and detox facilities,” Triance said. “Those are not adequate in any community across B.C. right now.”

While there were 8,000 hours of foot and bicycle patrols, it’s not a 24/7 effort, she said.

There were also 1,600 calls with a mental health component.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 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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