Downtown 'under siege'

Downtown Penticton Association President Ryan Graham tore into the RCMP’s policing of the downtown core Tuesday, declaring the neighbourhood “under siege” from drug users and vagrancy.

Graham, also the manager of Clancy’s Liquor Store, was backed by a gallery full of fellow business owners during Tuesday afternoon’s council meeting.

“Right now, our business owners… are all under siege. They have drug users that are coming in daily and using their washrooms as injection sites. This is a battle that we are all losing,” he said.

Graham also complained to councillors about the “drinking culture” downtown that sees people drinking liquor in open spaces such as Nanaimo Square.

“My idea of success would be an actual police force downtown, that are getting out of the vehicles and engaging these individuals, and dealing with the culture,” he said, adding he would be returning to council in three months to either congratulate or hold the RCMP and city accountable.

"It’s been a few years that’s compounded this, and now we have lost the entire control of the downtown.”

Penticton RCMP detachment commander Ted De Jager was at the meeting to provide his quarterly report and respond to the concerns.

He said downtown will be the partially responsibility of the five-officer community support and enforcement team launched in December, led by Cpl. Laurie Rock.

“In terms of the culture, I couldn’t agree more,” De Jager said. “The police are always a proponent of responsible behaviour, but I don't know that we are the driver of culture.”

“I don’t know what else to do for the most addicted, sick and vulnerable in our society. We are not going to solve that with the handcuffs on my belt, and we are not going to solve that by giving out tickets to people that don't have a home,” he added.

De Jager mused that officers could be more visible downtown if they were not tied up responding to preventable crimes, like thefts from vehicles.

He said last year, Penticton RCMP responded to 740 thefts from vehicles — at 30 to 60 minutes of officer time each — but caught just three people.

“It’s next to impossible to catch them. They literally open a door, grab an ipad and walk away. So who did it?” he asked.

Councillors spoke about the desire to improve things downtown, agreeing it doesn’t solely fall at the feet of the police. A motion was eventually passed to direct staff to engage with the RCMP to improve its downtown policing strategy.


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