Crime, vandalism and street disruption still top concern for downtown businesses

Crime still the top concern

A downtown Kamloops business owner says acts of crime, vandalism and street disruption are still an issue for the neighbourhood, describing the current state as the "worst it has ever been."

Bill Sanesh, Jr., owner of Bikini Bills on Victoria Street, attended a community safety session hosted by the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association on Wednesday evening, which included the RCMP, the City of Kamloops’ community services division and the Mustard Seed.

Following the meeting, Sanesh said business owners and operators are tired of “lip service” and talk about initiatives that, based on his observations, have failed to alleviate street disruption.

“We have been open for over 30 years and this is the absolute worst it has ever been,” Sanesh said in an email to Castanet Kamloops.

Sanesh said negative experiences happen on a near-daily basis.

“We frequently have fires four out of seven days within 50 metres of our buildings,” Sanesh said, adding that ironically, there was a fire outside his building overnight following the safety session.

“We have a minimum of six break-ins per year on our two properties no matter how much we upgrade and spend. … We easily spent $25,000 last year on broken windows, doors and locks, human waste cleanup, needle pickup, repairs, graffiti, extra security patrols and upgrades."

Howie Reimer, executive director for the KCBIA, told Castanet Kamloops crime was the No. 1 concern raised during Wednesday’s safety meeting.

Reimer noted results from a recent citizen satisfaction survey conducted for the City of Kamloops indicated that residents feel their quality of life has lowered due to crime and homelessness.

“The business owners, yes they're concerned as citizens about homelessness, but they want to protect their investments, they want their employees to be safe,” Reimer said.

When asked if he felt instances of vandalism and crime were increasing, decreasing or staying the same, Reimer said he would need to see police statistics on the number of crimes reported to the detachment, but in talking to businesses, these incidents are “still an issue.”

Reimer said he is hopeful a new program pairing community services officers with outreach workers will have an impact, and added he would like to see a full compliment of RCMP officers in Kamloops.

“We're trying to make it better, but the proof will be in the pudding. When we hear these all these initiatives, we need to see change on the street — we need to see people that do feel safer, we need to see less window fronts being smashed," he said.

“As long as we’re moving forward and we’re starting to see that change. I’m not seeing it enough that we can say yes, it is getting better at this particular time.”

Reimer said most importantly, action needs to be taken in Ottawa to ensure violent and repeat offenders remain off the streets.

Kamloops RCMP Supt. Jeff Pelley, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said the detachment will continue to work with businesses, the community services division and agencies to tackle issues related to homelessness, addictions and mental health.

“I'm optimistic on our collaborative approach, working closely with the CSOs on social calls versus criminal calls, and how we can address that in a tiered response,” Pelley told Castanet Kamloops.

“We’re already doing it, but how we can enhance the service delivery to the community members, the individuals in need, as well as our business community — we're going to continue to work closely with partners and our business improvement associations.”

More Kamloops News