Four new community safety officers joining Penticton’s bylaw team will be focusing on improving social issues, enhancing community safety and livability as a complement to police services.
The team will be working to help individuals experiencing homelessness, untreated mental health issues or substance use issues.
The community safety officer program was started in 2018, aiming to fill a gap for a more appropriate response to calls that require specific social issues training.
City director of development services Blake Laven explained that the officers were brought on to help with situations of 'social nuisance; and areas that aren't necessarily 'appropriate' for an RCMP officer to respond to or where normal bylaw officers wouldn't have the appropriate training to engage in the situation.
“These new community safety officers do have the conflict management training, they have training in dealing with individuals that are experiencing untreated mental health issues, or substance use addictions issues, and they know all the different agencies and all the different resources out there to help individuals,” he added.
The goal is to connect people with the services they need, while building relationships with individuals in the community.
“Treating those people with respect but also building those relationships so that they could have honest discussions with those people about what the expectations are in Penticton.”
City council supported the expansion of bylaw services for the 2022 budget, shifting the hours of operation to increase, which required six new members for the City of Penticton Bylaw Department.
This included one bylaw intake administrator, one bylaw enforcement officer and four community safety bylaw officers.
After posting the new positions in December, Bylaw has had hundreds of promising applications.
“We have identified some very strong candidates and we're looking forward to going through the interview process with them and seeing what kind of fit we can have with our great team,” Laven added.
When the officers join the bylaw services team, the hours of operation will expand from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.
In addition, RCMP will be seeing new recruits come through in the next months from the recently approved four additional members budgeted by the city.,
“We have a member arriving in Penticton from the RCMP Training Academy at the end of January and two more members from the RCMP Training Academy arriving in February. We also have another seasoned member arriving at the detachment in approximately three months,” Penticton RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter shared over email.