Think longer term

Re: Call for more cops

Interest in the inadequacy of police funding reflects recent reports that Penticton’s RCMP detachment has the highest average caseload of all BC communities with over 15,000 residents.

Ex-MLA Rick Thorpe has proposed that Penticton City Council redirect financial reserves to hire five officers for five years. The question is whether Thorpe’s prescription is the best or only option. Cash reserves presumably have designated purposes such as responding to catastrophic natural events, infrastructure failures, environmental issues or other risks.

Alternative solutions begin with answering fundamental questions such as “why are Penticton’s policing caseloads disproportionately high?” Part of the answer lies in the 2021 RDOS Housing Needs Assessment Report, which states that Penticton is absorbing more of its fair share of the “hard to house”, as we are the only South Okanagan community providing shelters and transitional housing. Another factor is that after closure of Greyhound service, released inmates from the Okanagan correctional Centre could no longer receive bus tickets home. Warden Steve DiCastri stated in a 2018 media article that if no bus is available, staff will drive them back “to their court of origin”. In how many cases does that mean “to Penticton”?

In short, the rise in crime in recent years is not entirely a “made in Penticton” problem. To properly understand the root causes, a judicial review and/or a special panel should be enabled to call witnesses from BC Corrections, social service agencies, BC Housing, Interior Health, RCMP and other parties with direct knowledge and expertise.

The task is to identify service deficiencies, remediation requirements, and a plan and strategy for better addressing policing, mental health and social services. This is preferable to Penticton’s taxpayers continuing to absorb the costs of Provincial edicts, and BC’s downloading of responsibilities for this file.

Why should Penticton’s citizens fund additional policing when part of the problem lies with BC’s failure to deliver adequate services for their supportive housing projects and released inmates? Rick Thorpe has suggested to the City a five year prescription for Band Aids, when in depth diagnostics and surgery appear to be necessary to address policing and social service needs over the longer term.

Denis O'Gorman, Penticton

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