Red Zone Working: Cops

Kelowna's top Mountie admits he's feeling the heat after the public learned that the so-called red zone has been expanded.

The red-zone is designed to keep repeat offenders out of Kelowna's downtown core.

It's boundaries were extended from Richter Street to Ethel Street last summer, but only now are the courts catching up with the changes.

Superintendent Bill McKinnon admits he's taking some flack.

"We've caused a lot of displacement and I realize that. My phone hasn't stopped ringing off the hook. I'm getting calls from people who are not happy about having these prolific offenders living or camping in their neighbourhood."

McKinnon says dealing with the criminally transient outside the red-zone falls on the general duty members and he's instructed them to be fair but firm with them.

The cop in charge of the RCMP's Downtown Enforcement Unit, Corporal Lee Hamilton, says the red-zone had to be extended in order to protect businesses along Richter and the Boys and Girls Club.

He says moving the red-zone to Ethel makes sense.

"Ethel is a more defendable boundary because there are more residences there as opposed to unmanned businesses. It's more defendable because people are at home and watching and call us if they see a problem or suspicious activity."

Hamilton says the red-zone extension into a residential area means there are fewer transients congregating in packs.

"We have one or two instead of 20 which has the potential of a mob mentality."

He says RCMP are reaching out to those residents affected by the move.

"We've had numerous conversations with the residents to try to help them deal with the situation. We tell them how to defend their property and how to band together as a community because it's not just a police problem -- it's a community problem. It's going to make life a little miserable for a very short time until the crackheads realize the police are not going to leave them alone."

The red-zone extends from Lake Okanagan to the West, South from Lake Avenue, Rowcliffe to Ethel and Ethel to Stockwell, Doyle and back to the lake.

Hamilton says Kelowna is only the second city to implement the red-zone in BC with Nanaimo taking the lead.

More Kelowna News