Unbelievable, scary crimes

Alanna Kelly

Bylaw and police officers are frequently patroling up and down Mill Creek for illegal campers, but business owners off Enterprise Way said property crime has increased to a scary amount. 

Close to a dozen business owners at the corner of Enterprise Way and Highway 97 say the problem starts off the Okanagan Rail Trail as transient people have been cutting their way through their security fence. 

Company of Cars employee James Verma says every time he comes to work he always finds damage.

“Coming to work makes me so angry because of the damage… the [transient people] are not even scared and they break in and damage the cars,” said Verma. “We try to file a complaint and nobody is listening.”

Security video footage shows people coming through the industrial area at night, damaging vehicle, sleeping in cars and causing property damage. 

“They sleep during the day, they come out at night… it’s frustrating,” said Brite’n Up Auto Cleaning Co. employee Curtis Studer. 

Business owner Perry Harris says he’s lost tens of thousands of dollars from batteries being stolen, propane tanks and damage to customer’s vehicles.

“How much it has escalated in the last four years is unbelievable. It is scary,” said Harris. 

City of Kelowna officials say they are aware of the concerns, noting bylaw and police officer's presence in the area has been increased this year. 

“We will be adding private security patrols along with other measures that are being developed,” said spokesperson Tom Wilson. 

A security fence has been replaced multiple times, and even had barbed wire added to it, but people continue to cut through it to access the area. 

“All of us in the complex are sitting here wondering if we have to come down here every night or get security… it is costing our landlord tons of money,” said Studer. 

But Harris says he has paid over $8,000 towards security and people entering the property ignore the cameras and security measures. 

“The cops aren’t going to come over a simple infraction,” said Harris. “The solution the City of Kelowna is coming up with is not working.”

City officials say the situation is, unfortunate, but a reflection of the need for better emergency shelter space and supportive housing apartments where people can have a safe and stable place to live. 

“Until we have that built out through the five-year Journey Home strategy, there will be instances where people choose to camp illegally,” said Wilson.

According to Harris, their businesses are surrounded by three wet supportive housing facilities where tenants can use alcohol and other drugs.

“People need to get money for their drugs somewhere and unfortunately it is coming from the pocket of people in this community,” said Harris. 

Wilson adds from February, 2017 to June 18, 2019, bylaw officers have dealt with 31 camp sites.

"Bylaw staff believe there is a relatively small group who are constantly on the move up and down the trail after they are dispersed from one location," said Wilson.

Illegal and unsafe behaviour is being asked to be reported to RCMP, so the city can take appropriate steps to resolving these issues. 

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