KELOWNA - Having eyes on the street is one of the keys to safe city streets, according to the downtown plan, and Kelowna’s urban core now has quite a few with more coming.
The primary eyes are Kelowna RCMP, followed by the City of Kelowna bylaw officers, transit security, the downtown ambassadors and private security — in addition to city-run surveillance cameras at eight downtown locations.
Recognizing the value of this network, the city now runs the coordinated downtown enforcement committee, with reps from each group meeting monthly.
Members, meanwhile, are connected through cell phones for more immediate response to each other and through city bylaw to the RCMP.
Spokesman Cpl. Joe Duncan says the Kelowna RCMP coverage area is broken into two zones, Downtown and Rutland, each of which has a minimum of 12 officers per watch shift.
"More officers are added for special events and officers from either zone can redeploy as needed if something big happens,” Duncan says.
The zones are huge. Downtown stretches from the Mission to Lake Country. Rutland runs to just 25 kilometres shy of Beaverdell.
However, the very nature of crime means the downtown core keeps some officers nearby pretty much all the time, Duncan says. It doesn’t hurt that RCMP headquarters is right downtown, too.
City bylaw officers also work watch shifts of 12 hours, with three to six officers on at any one time. Their coverage zone is also huge and not neccesarily clustered in the downtown core.
“They have to deal with everything from from zoning bylaws to illegal suites to noise complaints,” protective services director Rob Mayne says. “And that can be anywhere in the city.”
This summer, Mayne says bylaw services added three officers specifically to deal with downtown, conducting foot and bike patrols along the waterfront and in other parks and problem areas.
“As part of our regular foot patrols, we would go to areas frequented by certain individuals and try to get them to move along before the public gets to the park,” Mayne says.
The extra officers are gone now that tourist season has wound down but will be back next year, Mayne says.
City-contracted security guards also perform scheduled checks at beach accesses and designated city properties, in some cases throughout the night, and are trained to call it in if they see something going on.
The Downtown Kelowna Association puts its downtown ambassadors out on the street seven days a week until at least 9 p.m. The two-person roving teams patrol the downtown core, offering advice and directions to tourists, but also watching what's going on and reporting incidents up the chain if necessary. The association recently doubled its security budget in face of demands from members, adding Sundays and extending its hours.
Kelowna Transit has daily security from 3 p.m. until midnight at the Queensway transit exchange, which next year will be the site of a new central security office, with the possibility of an additionall full-time officer pending budget approval.
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