Shocking visit to Kelowna

Recently my wife and I stayed at a hotel adjacent to Kelowna City Park for a night on the town and a short getaway from our home in Summerland.

We walked through City Park and felt somewhat uncomfortable with the homeless camps and obvious drug users roaming around, but carried on to the downtown area, where we enjoyed a pleasant dinner.

Upon returning to our hotel, we sat on the hotel rooftop patio and spent the remainder of the evening overlooking City Park. What we observed during the course of the evening was disturbing.

The homeless camp was an obvious drug trafficking site, as all sorts of people would walk up, make a purchase and then carry on their way. An obvious prostitute stumbled over to get her fix before heading out to work. Young girls stumbled around the park and street.

A girl that looked to be in some distress flagged down one of the many patrol cars, and the officer spoke to her for a few seconds before speeding off.

These are human beings, loved and missed by family and friends. They are in desperate need of help – not free syringes, drugs and no accountability. The street behind the Gospel Mission looks like a mini version of East Hastings Street, right here in Kelowna. 

Needless to say, if we were tourists coming to spend our vacation dollars in Kelowna and witnessed this heartbreaking spectacle, we would never return.

The Okanagan is a tourist oriented area, and this display is completely unacceptable. Yes, there were numerous cruisers patrolling, but not a single officer on foot or bicycle actually interacting with people.

Perhaps it is time to look at community based policing where officers actually get out of their cars and build relationships with the people they are paid to protect. The mere presence of uniformed officers tends to discourage street crime.

Having lived in the east, I’ve seen this method of policing work. Tourism will continue to decline and quality of life for residents will deteriorate without radical change in the B.C. drug culture, and the opioid epidemic will continue to take lives. We must look at alternatives to what is clearly not working.

Steve Watt, Summerland

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