Downtown Kelowna on-call team stretched to its limits

Downtown team stretched

Madison Erhardt

The Downtown Kelowna Association says their on-call clean and safety teams are stretched to their limits.

DKA executive director Mark Burley says not only are they currently short-staffed, "but the calls are frequent and they come all day long."

The Downtown Kelowna on-call team, also known as the guys in the red shirts, work seven days a week to help de-escalate situations downtown, clean up messes and support those living on the streets.

"If we are doing the same amount of calls from our members on a daily, weekly monthly, yearly basis with fewer people, imagine how many calls we would be doing if we had, say, another five or six team members," Burley said, noting the program is funded by DKA members.

The team focuses on front-line issues related to personal safety, security, and hospitality to create a positive social environment downtown.

In a news release this week, the Business Improvement Areas of BC (BIABC) called for urgent action from all three levels of government to deal with rising street issues and crime plaguing communities across the province.

Burley says a number of small changes could make a big difference. He suggested improved lighting and anti-graffiti solutions.

"Whatever it is, we are asking all the people running for mayor, all the people running for council and all the cities around B.C.... to actually commit to sitting down and saying we need to put more resources towards bylaw services, towards RCMP, towards lighting and graffiti solutions so that we can make our downtown safer," Burley said.

Teri Smith, BIABC president, says support from incoming leaders is key to seeing change.

"We have got a civic election coming up in our community so we are really wanting to see a commitment from our incoming leaders to support core funding to mitigate street level issues. Whether that is increasing programs around sanitation, street lighting, anti-graffiti programs or looking at increased policing resources."

"Then from the provincial level, we are really looking for a plan in place to support individuals dealing with mental health addictions and or homelessness," she said.

Last month a StatsCanada report placed Metro Kelowna’s crime rate per 100,000 residents at the highest in the country.

Kelowna RCMP commander Supt. Kara Triance suggested the “catch and release” justice system is partially to blame and has advocated for involuntary addictions and mental health treatment. David Eby, who is the frontrunner in the BC NDP leadership race, has also advocated for involuntary treatment.

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