Council approves investigation into options for adding more bylaw officers throughout the evenings

Need for increased safety

Penticton city council has unanimously voted to have staff develop a report on funding options for additional bylaw officers in an effort to find solutions to ongoing social and safety challenges in the community.

Mayor John Vassilaki brought forward the motion on Tuesday, looking for information on if adding bylaw services officers to cover the hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week would be of benefit.

"There are several communities in the Lower Mainland that have the same problems that we have in the city of Penticton,” Vassilaki said. “Our citizens and our taxpayers are living in fear in the community.”

“We just don’t have enough officers in our community to respond to those who request them and that’s where the safety officers would come into play to attend those calls that the RCMP are incapable of responding to.”

Coun. Katie Robinson noted that council dealt with the suggestion back during budget deliberations and it was turned down.

“I understand only too well how badly this city needs the help but I question whether the bylaw is the correct agency to do that with,” she said. “I think the RCMP is better prepared to handle this type of problem than unarmed safety officers that are dealing with mental health, addictions problems.”

Robinson also brought up that Pathways addiction recovery centre announced that their funding from IH was being pulled, which adds another concern for the community.

But the mayor said they can’t just throw their hands up and not do anything.

“Something has to be done and we’re the only ones who can do it,” Vassilaki said.

Coun. Julius Bloomfield said the motion just called for an investigation into a possible solution for the problem.

“I think the staff report should include a report from bylaw as to whether they’re even capable of doing what we’re asking for and what it would cost,” he said.

The municipality has previously amped up bylaw services, adding more on-duty officers during the holidays and weekends.

“I think what we can find by having more bylaw officers is perhaps just the presence and the feeling of the presence will help our community and it is just a step in the right direction,” Coun. Campbell Watt said, adding that while an RCMP officer may have a bigger impact, they also come with a higher cost.

Penticton's bylaw department has 13 staff, including both officers and administrative staff.

Council does not have an idea of where funding would come from or how many officers would need to be added to cover the new shifts.

More Penticton News