Province needs to pony up more cash for Penticton to be safe, city says | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton News

Province needs to pony up more cash for Penticton to be safe, city says

City council approved a 5.5 per cent increase to Penticton's city budget at this week's council meeting on February 1, 2016.

Authorities are stretched thin in Penticton as a result of an increase in mental health calls and overdoses, and the city cannot adequately address community safety because the province doesn’t provide enough funding.

That’s among the key findings in the city’s recent report on public safety – Resource Review of the Penticton RCMP detachment, Penticton Fire and Rescue, and Penticton Bylaw and Community Safety Officer Program.

“This is a thoroughly detailed review that looks at all aspects of the city's safety resources – from RCMP to Fire to Bylaw Services – and presents a clear picture that the status quo of the city trying to fill the gaps in services that are a provincial responsibility is not sustainable,” Anthony Haddad, general manager of community services said in a media release.

“The city has invested significantly over the last five years as we try to meet these challenges and provide a safe and healthy community. The report is unambiguous that we cannot afford to continue to carry the burden.”

A higher level of calls, mental health calls especially, is preventing RCMP officers from proactively patrolling the community; overdoses are accounting for more than 50% of calls for firefighters which reduces their operational readiness; and bylaw officers need more authority to deal with a 243% rise in calls compared to 2017, according to findings in the report.

Many of the report’s 54 recommendations fall outside of municipal jurisdiction.

“This is an ideas report, providing many potential starting points for the municipality and other levels of government," Haddad said. "Staff will continue to review the report and take direction from council on what the next steps and how we engage with our provincial partners to ensure Penticton residents are getting the level of service required.”

Through a survey, the report found 29% of women feel unsafe shopping alone downtown during the day and 80% don’t feel safe at night. Even in their own neighbourhoods, 28% of men and 62% of women don’t feel safe walking alone at night. There’s a perception among 79% of the population that crime has gone up while stats show that crime has in fact increased.

“Community residents give the RCMP low marks for proactive engagement with the community,” the report found.

“Concerns about the police not being proactively engaged with the community should be taken seriously, as this can undermine police legitimacy and public confidence in the police.”

However, local officers are “dedicated professionals” who can’t always meet the demands being placed on them, according to the report. 

The mental health of officers was also noted as an issue, as 10% of members are on leave because of mental health issues. In total, 20% of the force is on leave.

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