Residents want more criminal charges against homeless, Kelowna mayor says - InfoNews

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Residents want more criminal charges against homeless, Kelowna mayor says

Kelowna RCMP Superintendent Brent Mundle delivering a report to Kelowna city council, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018.
February 19, 2018 - 5:00 PM

KELOWNA - Mayor Colin Basran is encouraging the Kelowna RCMP to pursue criminal charges amongst the city’s homeless street population regardless of possible mental health or addiction problems they might have.

“Residents want to know the criminal part of it is being proactively pursued as well, not just left by saying they have mental health and addictions issues as well, so we can’t pursue that,” Basran said Monday, Feb. 19, during delivery by Kelowna RCMP Supt. Brent Mundle of his final quarterly report for 2017.

Basran said he thinks there has been more “erratic and aggressive” behaviour, especially in the downtown core and some of the other nearby commercial areas.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean criminal behaviour but it’s enough to scare people off or have a bad experience and say 'I don’t want to put myself through that again',” the mayor said.

Basran said social issues have for the first time overtaken transportation as the main concern of residents during the city’s 2017 citizens survey and asked the superintendent to comment on the perception that some parts of town are less safe.

Mundle took a softer tone, acknowledging that some may feel less safe, but differentiating between different types of street homeless he encounters.

“I spend a lot of time in the downtown area and I regularly have conversations with a lot of those people,” Mundle said. “Some of them are truly homeless and some of them are involved in the criminal element.”

Mundle said the overall fear of increasing crime is misinformed despite the perception and he recommended a more enlightened approach.

“I think when people become a little more educated with respect to social issues they would be a little more empathetic with respect to those individuals,” he said. “I think we need to look at this with a slightly different lens.”

Statistics presented by the superintendent show a slight decrease in violent crime offences from January 2015 to December 2017 from just above 0.7 offences per 1,000 to just below.

The slight downward trend is punctuated by annual summer spikes in violent crimes where the rate will generally tick up to about 1.0 offenses per 1,000.

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