Lifting downtown's 'siege'

The Mayor of Penticton agrees something has to be done to get a handle on an increase of “flagrant social deviances” downtown.

Council got an earful Tuesday from DPA president Ryan Graham, who visited council to declare the neighbourhood “under siege” from drug users and vagrants.

Jakubeit, who also runs a business downtown, pushed back a bit against the hyperbole.

“I don’t think it's a fair or realistic characterization to imply that it's a minefield of needles when you come downtown, but certainly there’s been an increase in the amount of flagrant social deviances.”

“There is a perception that during the day it's fine, but at night people feel unsafe,” he added.

“We have invested significantly downtown,” he said, referring to revitalization work on the 100 to 300 blocks of Main Street and more than 300 housing units coming down the pipe.

“We want downtown to be a place where they can work live and play, and they have to feel safe,” he said. “In the past, that behaviour has been allowed to fester and grow.”

He said the city and police need to work on making it “more uncomfortable” for people to behave badly downtown, perhaps as simply as pouring out open liquor.

He cautioned though, that it doesn’t all fall at the feet of the police.

“We don’t want to have this problem displaced somewhere else,” he said, adding addiction and other social issues are the real driver of the bad behaviour.

City council directed staff to work with the RCMP on improving downtown policing.

“They are about nine million dollars a year, it's a significant part of the budget. So council certainly has the capacity to direct them to change their priorities,” the Mayor said.

Jakubeit said staff are fleshing out a plan that will allow council to formally vote on shifting resources toward the downtown.


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