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Steps already being taken to clean-up downtown Kelowna streets

More street and sidewalk cleaning is seen as one small way to deal with problems downtown.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO

KELOWNA - Bill McKinnon won’t be reporting to Kelowna city council for a few more weeks but his look at ways to improve public safety is already making some progress.

In a City of Kelowna Facebook video, he outlined four “quick fixes” that have been put in place since August.

“I think it’s improved the situation,” he told today, Oct. 25. “Especially when you’re talking about urination and defecation on the streets.”

Crime and homelessness were big issues in the recent Kelowna municipal election with many candidates touting McKinnon’s upcoming report as a key to making changes.

The former Kelowna RCMP superintendent was hired by the city in July to “work with senior levels of government, social service agencies and community organizations to find ways to ensure the public feels safe on our streets and to develop recommendations on how best to tackle the complex conditions that contribute to a lack of public safety,” states a news release issued at that time.

McKinnon will make a number of recommendations to city council later this fall. The earliest that can be done is at the next regular council meeting Nov. 19 but it may not happen until early December.

In the video, he says the opioid crisis is a major contributing factor to the levels of crime and homelessness, especially in the downtown core and something he did not have to deal with prior to retiring from the RCMP in 2013.

But his research isn’t focused strictly on the downtown core. One thing that has been implemented since the summer is new security patrols in the Gordon and Sutherland areas to deal with an increasing number of complaints.

There have also been more street and sidewalk clean-up, temporary washrooms installed behind the Cornerstone shelter and a 'one call sharps program' where the public can call the non-emergency fire department phone number (259-469-8801) to arrange for someone to pickup discarded needles they find.

McKinnon wouldn’t discuss what his recommendations will be but it’s clear from the mandate he was given that he’s not looking for beefed up enforcement. Rather, it’s about better coordinating all agencies dealing with these issues and finding housing for those in need.

“They’ve got to have shelter and they’ve got to have roofs over their heads,” he said. “We can’t leave people out on the streets to freeze to death.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 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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