Street patrols by private security guards seen to be making a difference in Kelowna, West Kelowna - InfoNews

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Street patrols by private security guards seen to be making a difference in Kelowna, West Kelowna

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November 21, 2018 - 5:30 PM

KELOWNA - More than $150,000 is being spent on specialized private security street patrols in Kelowna and West Kelowna this year.

The questions raised by this new strategy for dealing with downtown problem areas is whether it’s doing any good and, if so, will other cities follow the example set by Kelowna and adopted by West Kelowna. Both cities hired Paladin Security to mount foot patrols in key trouble areas.

“There was a noticeable improvement with their presence and the incident numbers did decrease,” West Kelowna parks and fleet manager Stacey Harding told iNFOnews.ca. “And there was a noticeable voice of appreciation from the downtown business association.”

Kelowna’s patrols started at the beginning of the summer with a single Paladin security guard patrolling in and around the 400 block of Leon Avenue. It was expanded in September to the Gordon/Sutherland area for a total cost of about $100,000 this year.

Lance Kayfish, Kelowna’s director of community safety, explained the city has used security guards for 10 or 20 years to patrol things like parks, civic buildings and parkades but only started dedicated foot patrols this summer.

“We’ve actually seen pretty marked improvements,” Kayfish said. “That’s the feedback we’ve got from many of the people and businesses in the Sutherland/Gordon area.”

West Kelowna launched its street patrol as of Aug. 1 running from noon to midnight, seven days a week. It focuses on areas like Lions Hall, churches on Main Street, the Elliot Road transit exchange and areas of Dobbin Street at a cost of about $10,000 a month, so $50,000 for this year.

In a report to council on Oct. 29, Harding reported that in the six-week period from Aug. 1 to Sept. 24, RCMP were called six times

“The demand on City Bylaw services was reduced during the trial period in these locations,” he wrote in his report, adding that city staff “saw a noticeable change with the absence of the loitering individuals resulting in less garbage, vandalism and nuisance complaints.”

Harding’s own office window overlooks the transit stop and his staff cleans up the garbage left behind by transients.

Jason Davis, operations manager for Paladin Security in Kelowna told iNFOnews.ca, "the fact that people had seen success, has led to other areas reaching out to do the same type of safety patrols."

He would not say who had expressed interest in starting a similar service.

Harding's report to West Kelowna council included statistics from Paladin about the 127 incidents recorded over the six-week period, but it does not have a base line for comparison from July or previous years.

Of the 127 incidents, the largest category, with 27 listed, was Disturbance/Loitering.

“Loitering is not permitted,” Harding said. “But Paladiin took a very soft-handed approach. They would approach a person and kindly remind them that they had been there from some time and they might want to move on.”

Loitering far outnumbered other categories like disturbance for drugs (5), liquor offences (2) and fighting (2). Hastings noted, however, that Paladin’s job was to observe more than enforce. If needed, they would call bylaw officers or the RCMP.

The second largest category was listed as General/Patrol/Special Request with 26 recorded. That included things storeowners asking for someone to be moved along to someone asking for directions.

While the average number of incidents works out to 18 per day, the peak days were Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, all with more than 21 incidents. Fridays (17) and Saturdays (16) were quieter.

Following Harding's report, West Kelowna council agreed to extend the program to the end of the year.

Similar statics were not provided by the City of Kelowna by deadline.

While Paladin staff work on their own in Kelowna, they are in close contact with other Paladin staff working in the downtown area, as well as being equipped with radios in order to contact bylaw officers and the RCMP when needed.

There are no reports of physical harm suffered by Paladin staff but Kayfish noted that some people are antagonistic towards them.

“We have seen a change in behaviour among some people and observed less respect for authority,” he said. “That’s a story we’ve heard from bylaw services, the RCMP and some security people who work for us, a decrease in respect for authority in general.

“We have seen an increase in threatening behaviour against the contractor security officers that work for the city. There have been a few assaults this year, everything from throwing rocks to hitting and spitting. We’ve seen that more recently than we have in the past so it’s very discouraging.”

It's maybe five percent of the people his workers are dealing with that cause the most problems, Davis said.

“There has been a different population that seems to have come this year,” Davis said. “I would say 80 per cent of the people are the people we’ve dealt with for years and years. It just seems to be Kelowna right now. There’s a small group of combative individuals."

On the plus side, Kayfish knows of at least one incident when a security guard in Kelowna intervened in an overdose situation and may have saved a life.

Paladin is also doing mobile patrols in Vernon but not the dedicated foot patrols.

“We make sure people aren’t camping out behind businesses,” Davis said. “The Polson (Park) area is very busy.”

He says a competing security firm may be doing similar work in Penticton.


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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