Kelowna's crime problem shouldn't fall on mayor and council's shoulders, says business owner - InfoNews

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Kelowna's crime problem shouldn't fall on mayor and council's shoulders, says business owner

Window-front of Wild Kingdom on Lawrence Avenue.
June 28, 2019 - 3:00 PM

KELOWNA -  Kim Williams has owned a downtown Kelowna business for decades, and knows the neighbourhood is facing more crime than ever. But, it's not like she couldn't see it coming.

"The problem that’s going on in Kelowna has not started with the mayor and the city council that’s in place right now,” she said.

"This started years and years ago and it should have been addressed then. And now it’s gotten so bad that our own citizens can’t come downtown and shop in our local businesses. It’s disgusting.”

Williams has owned the Wild Kingdom on Lawrence Avenue for 20 years.

"When I got here, there was no problem,” she said.

However, around 2005 thing began to get worse, and have only escalated since.

"I’ve been broken into, we’ve been held up at gunpoint, I’ve had my door smashed in, I’ve had internal theft,” she said. "The downtown core has changed drastically since I moved here, since I started my business. My advice to everybody is to get metal shutters put into their stores so they can sleep at night.”

Metal shutters installed on the windows and door of Wild Kingdom.
Metal shutters installed on the windows and door of Wild Kingdom.

Subsequent to repeated incidents, Williams installed 18 security cameras, metal shutters for the windows and door, and equipped each employee with a panic button.

"I’ve got every single bit of security put into place to protect my staff. That’s really my main concern," said Williams.

The metal shutters cost $15,000 to install. The security cameras set Williams back $35,000.

When asked if she considered moving from the downtown core, Williams said she's standing her ground.

"It’s frustrating. It’s disheartening. But I’m still doing what I have to do and I’m still going to stay here, I’m not moving,” she said. "I’m a strong businesswoman and I’m not just going to close down and go and hide in a corner.”

Not only is the cost of moving a business astronomical, but Williams points to an additional deterrent.

“There’s nowhere that is safe,” she said. “There is nowhere to move to.”

Williams says that it’s unfortunate that Mayor Basran has stepped into such a big mess. "He’s the mayor now, and people are not thinking that this started way before he was in power. It’s just gotten to the boiling point now."

Jaye Siegmueller opened her business Farm Bound less than four months ago on Lawrence Avenue. Last Thursday around 2:30 a.m. a vandal broke three of her shop windows, in addition to damaging windows at Castanet and HSBC.

Windows broken at Farm Bound
Windows broken at Farm Bound

“Talking to some other business owners in the area, a number of them have reached out and said 'hey, we’ve had this happen, too,' and it makes it really tough to do business downtown,” said Siegmueller. "One of them said that when their lease is up, they're probably going to move their business out of downtown, which really sucks because you get the erosion of local business downtown. It really affects everybody, it affects the culture.”

On June 26, Siegmueller received the quote from the window repair company, and the cost will be $1,200.

“My insurance deductible is $1,000 and you get a rate increase, so the claim would have to be worth $4,000 to $5,000 to be worth it,” Siegmueller said. “A hundred per cent of this money is going to be coming out of my pocket.”

Siegmueller, like Williams, isn’t pointing the blame at the current mayor and council.

“It’s a number of things, and I don’t think that any one particular person is being negligent,” she said. "I just think that everybody is frustrated and nobody knows what to do.”

In light of the scheduled Rutland walking tour June 25 where Basran cancelled his appearance, Williams is calling for stronger leadership from the municipal government.

“[Basran] should go out and speak to people, he should show his face,” she says, " Not just him, but the rest of the councillors need to stand up beside him.”

Williams is sympathetic for the people of Rutland, knowing what they’re dealing with from her own experience downtown.

“They are frustrated and they’re not getting any answers,” she said, referring to the walking-tour. "The mayor won’t even go talk to them, that’s pretty pathetic.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 801-9235 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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