Call for more visible police

Penticton city councillor Jake Kimberley told RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager he frequently hears the question "Where are the police?" from his constituents when it comes to the ongoing issues with crime and drug use downtown. 

De Jager was at Thursday's Regional District of South Okanagan Similkameen board meeting fielding questions and concerns from regional directors and councillors. Kimberley said the visual he sees when he goes downtown is that a lot of criminal activity is going on, which is "not a good look."

"Some people believe if a police cruiser were going down Main Street on a fairly regular basis, it would deter a lot of the activity," Kimberley said, adding that whenever he does see a cop around, the illegal activities "seem to settle down."

"There’s been a lot of reporting of alleyway activity, needles etc., drugs, which really should be chased out," he said. 

De Jager said there frequently is a police car downtown, it's just usually unmarked as part of a targeted enforcement unit, since the RCMP's current priority is prolific offenders, not people committing small infractions. 

"The majority of the people that I lose sleep about overnight in terms of crime are not homeless, they're not necessarily addicted, they're not the people you see downtown. They're just bad guys," De Jager.

"The people that we see downtown, that create that perception of danger, that activity is certainly not condoned and we are trying to reach out to those people to prevent it and stop it but it's a much greater issue than the police."

De Jager also said that often, the visible small crimes downtown like drinking in public, using drugs or littering needles end up being ticketable offences rather than something that could warrant an arrest, as often by the time RCMP arrive the activity has ceased. 

"The use of drugs is not illegal in Canada, the possession of drugs is. If someone doesn't possess drugs then there's no authority to arrest them, and that does frustrate people, we get those calls too, people saying 'We called the police and they didn't do anything,'" he said. 

Kimberley acknowledged De Jager's point about the powers of police downtown, but stressed that his point was more about the visible issues in the downtown core that affect how both residents and visitors view the city. He suggested those misbehaving might decide not to if they knew police were around. 

"If they see a marked car, then it's a deterrent to the activities on the street, and I'm talking about loitering and, you know, it's really bad," Kimberley said. "If a marked car were to go by on a regular basis throughout the day, I think that would discourage a lot of that activity."

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