West Kelowna candidates weigh in on how they’d like to see crime dealt with

This week learn about how your candidates feel about crime in West Kelowna

Contributed

Each week we will be asking West Kelowna Council and Mayoral candidates questions about specific issues and topics in the city to help voters get to know the candidates a little better. We will be posing a new question each week and whoever wishes to take part has their answers published for residents to read.

There are 17 candidates running for six available councillor seats, including five incumbents and Mayor Doug Findlater who won’t be running for mayor again, instead he will be running for a seat on council. There are two mayoral candidates.

We also asked candidates to submit a little bit of information about themselves and the platform they are running on.

This week’s question:

Are you concerned about crime in West Kelowna? What would you do to create change if you were elected?

Mary Mandarino, for mayor

“I am concerned about crime in West Kelowna. Understanding the cause is necessary for crime prevention and creating change. Research indicates the causes of crime to be economic, social and family factors. In a broader sense, these problems stem from income inequality,” she said.

“The lack of financial resources leads to a lack of educational opportunities, lack of meaningful employment, poor or no housing options. Emotionally, poverty brings lack of hope, creating a larger number of those who can’t or, have difficulty, integrating; because of lack of training, mental illness, or addictions.”

Mandarino looks to solve these factors through prevention efforts such as parenting programs, family support and ensuring adequate housing for families should be made universally accessible. She also believes addressing homelessness issues by providing local temporary shelter for the homeless.

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Philip Akins for council

“The level of crime in West Kelowna concerns me a great deal,” said Akins.

“I have family members and close friends who have been the victims of break-ins, robberies, and one violent assault in the past two years. To these incidents there has been depressingly little reaction from law enforcement and policy makers, who plead lack of resources, lack of legal tools, and lack of jurisdiction to act. Clearly this is not a problem that city council can solve on its own, but there is more we can and must do to make our community safer.”

Akins believes the solution lies within building stronger relationships with Block Watch, Community Policing and other community organizations. He also says he would request funds from the province to increase security and fund new officers that have been requested by the RCMP. Akins wants to get to the “root causes of crime,” investing in mental health, substance abuse services and subsidized housing.

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Jerome Chung for council

“Being the fact that was reported by news media that Kelowna has (one of) the highest crime rate in Canada, it really sounded terrible. I believe that is just a per capita rate or measurement,” said Chung.

“But the real numbers of criminal acts or fatal incidents are not even close to what were reported in bigger cities like Vancouver, Surrey, or Toronto. Yes, we do have some criminal activities in West Kelowna like drug busts, murders, assaults and break-ins, but it’s not a daily occurrence. I believe we already have a strong police force (the RCMP) stationed here in the city and they are doing a good job keeping the criminal activities down.

“Therefore, if I am elected councillor, we as council would liaison with the law enforcers to determine if there is any need as a municipality to legislate by-laws that can prevent criminal activities from occurring. The city council does not have specific solutions to certain issue, but rather it should work with professionals and experts in the fields to make a resolution. Henceforth, it’s crucial for voters to put the right candidate in council to make wise decisions for them.”

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Rick de Jong for council (i)

“I am concerned about crime in West Kelowna. The quarterly RCMP reports to council do not indicate that crime is out of control in West Kelowna. However, our city has experienced incidents over the last few years that remind us of the importance of community policing efforts,” said de Jong.

“As the RCMP are mandated through a provincial contract, I support the need for a provincial review of our staffing levels here in West Kelowna to ensure we have an adequate number of officers working on our issues.”

De Jong says that council should be meeting regularly with local RCMP to discuss existing and emerging issues beyond the quarterly meetings that happen already.

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Doug Findlater for council (i)

“West Kelowna’s crime rate is low for a city of our size yet it spikes when prolific offenders are active, then it drops when they are caught,” said Findlater.

“Since 2009, council has added seven officers bringing our municipal force to 28 with two officers arriving in 2019. The provincial force serving WFN, rural areas including Big White is 20 officers. Council has asked for a review of the provincial force as we municipally funded officers may be doing work in the provincial areas. The review is in the works.

“Council should add more municipal officers when it is affordable and we can be assured that WK taxpayers are not funding policing in neighbouring areas. West Kelowna also hired private security for downtown which has led to a marked improvement there. WK funds Citizen’s Patrol and Neighbourhood Watch as proactive crime fighting measures.”

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Jason Friesen for council

“I believe that we are fortunate to not have a high rate of major crime, although the frequency of lesser crimes, theft, robbery, drugs are higher than our residents feel comfortable with,” said Friesen.

Friesen wants to limit petty crime by providing employment opportunities within the community. He also believes that by lowering the cost of living it would alleviate some of the financial constraints that he says some West Kelowna residents are feeling.

“Because it is not financially feasible to have adequate police presence monitoring every neighbourhood watching for property theft, car break-ins, etc. it is important for the city and council to support community groups and neighbourhoods with education and tools to work together in discouraging these types of crimes in their area,” he said.

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Joe Gluska for council

All residents are concerned with crime as West Kelowna’s population grows, according to Gluska, who says that crimes such as break-ins and drug overdoses fluctuate based on seasons and that the proper way to alleviate the strain on residents would be to watch the patterns to “effectively deploy our resources to mitigate the impact.

“Assistance to victims and families of victims is very important to me as well as West Kelowna,” he said.

If elected, Gluska plans to work alongside RCMP to come to a solution and look to build strategies based off of those in place in Port Moody, New Westminster and Vancouver.

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Stephen Johnston for council

“Yes I am concerned. The 2016 Census show that West Kelowna has the highest population/officer ratio in the province. The provincial average is 747 population/officer and West Kelowna sits at 1,455. This means that we have half the RCMP resources per capita available to us than neighbouring cities like Penticton and Vernon,” he said.

“Being a growing city with ratios like this its not surprising that crime has been on the rise. I’m aware the city is waiting for a service review from the RCMP to help identify the need for more provincial support before hiring officers with municipal funds. I understand and agree with the service review, however, we’ve been waiting for it for years and as a city we need to take the lead in showing that community safety is a priority. If I’m elected I will work with council to advocate to the province for the completion of this service review within one year. In the meantime I would work with council to create a plan to strategically add personnel and resources to align us with the provincial average over the next ten years. Situations like this show how important it is to encourage sustainable economic growth in order to help fund some of the missing pieces within our community.”

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Rosalind Neis for council (i)

“We have heard that crime has no boundaries from our local RCMP detachment and so is the case in West Kelowna. While the RCMP continues to deal with serious and increased numbers of criminal events I feel that the petty crime and lesser criminal offenses such as break and enter and non-violent activities are not getting the attention that they should,” Neis said.

Neis says that RCMP is not the only solution, block watches and community groups are a part of the solution as well since she says there have been talks about unionizing the RCMP.

“Policing is one of the most expensive services of a municipal budget and while all moving violations (traffic tickets) revenue must be pooled into the provincial fund, I think it is time that West Kelowna look at our bylaws and implement ways to generate revenue from ticketing to offset this multi-million dollar service. This new revenue could be used to increase “boots on the ground” to provide better service rather than increasing taxation,” she said.

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Tiffany Paré, for council

“I know that a number of our communities have expressed an uptick in crime in their neighbourhoods including my own community of Glenrosa. One of the things we have been working on in Glenrosa is officially becoming a Block Watch Community through community policing,” said Paré

“I volunteered to become the Block Watch captain for Webber Road last year and the secretary of the residents’ association. So I am very aware of each individual communities concerns. Our main Block Watch captain opened a Facebook page where we can discuss suspicious activity and be reminded to report it to the RCMP. Since then, I have noticed a huge decrease in crime all because of the increased and more apparent involvement of the residents looking out for each other.

“I would focus on prevention and encourage other communities to band together and do what Glenrosa is doing. Also, The RCMP need to be reminded that we want them to look out for our safety. If they are going to park anywhere to hand out traffic violations they should be parking where it matters most for the safety of us and our children. If you have a crime concern in your neighbourhood, continue to make it known. The squeakiest wheel gets the grease. Let’s work together on this and make our voices heard. The more we do the higher the likelihood that the province will give us more funding for more RCMP.”

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Winston Wammer for council

“The Kelowna detachment manages policing for us and we enjoy 14 per cent more police officers than the average in B.C. We must work with law enforcement officials to improve our situation—they are the experts,” said Wammer.

“I have been involved with the Block Watch program for approximately seven years and believe it to be successful in the reduction and prevention of crime.

“Our communities must work closely and effectively with law enforcement to prevent crime and protect the security and safety of our residents and businesses. Two-way communication between communities and law enforcement is necessary to bring awareness to the criminal activities going on and scams that are the ploy of the day.

“Good lighting, alarms, video surveillance, police presence and effective bylaw enforcement are a few of the basic preventive measures to make our communities more secure and safe.”

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Gordon Wiebe for council

“Our neighbourhood suffered a couple of break-ins over the past few weeks. I am concerned about crime in West Kelowna,” said Wiebe.

Wiebe says the West Kelowna RCMP detachment is currently under stress and spread fairly thin.

“Our community continues to grow and there are only a few officers on per shift. I think we expect too much of them when we ask them to police an area from Pennask Summit to Fintry like it’s a rural area— especially as our community begins to endure more big city problems. It’s tough to pull a rabbit out of this hat.

“I also worry about cyber crime which can and will be perpetrated on our more vulnerable citizens and seniors. I think we need to examine alternative and better community policing options. Regardless, council will need to provide more funding. taxpayers beware.”

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Bryden Winsby, for council, (i)

“While many residents of West Kelowna might believe the city has some serious crime problems, perception doesn’t always mesh with reality. In its August quarterly update to council, the city’s RCMP detachment reported declines in several major categories of criminal activity, the most significant being residential break-ins, (for the second three-month period in a row).Other large declines were reported for stolen vehicles and common assault.

Is crime an important issue for me? Of course it is. The biggest concern is bad driving, plain and simple. Speeders plague just about every area of the city. Motor vehicle incidents involving death, injury and property damage have increased sharply. However, we don’t have the police resources to implement a full-time traffic division. In fact, proper utilization of those resources (which include a provincial component that polices Westbank First Nation and a large rural area stretching all the way to Big White) is a big concern for council. We have pressed repeatedly for the province’s Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General to honour a policing agreement reached in 2009 that included a commitment to conduct a review of municipal and regional policing levels. Since signing the agreement, council has added seven officers to the city detachment — two of which have yet to arrive — and the detachment this year asked for eight more. Council approved two. We want proof positive that the residents of West Kelowna are getting what they pay for,” he said.

Carol Zanon, for council (i)

“As a citizen, I am concerned about crime everywhere, as a councillor for West Kelowna, I feel we are doing all possible within our fiscal means to support our police service. Every three months at an open meeting, the RCMP report to council on crime statistics in West Kelowna and that report includes over two dozen types of calls for service. I am aware, attentive and informed of these issues,” Zanon said.

She said one West Kelowna’s 2018 priorities is “to ensure West Kelowna is safe for all residents and visitors.” Projects include downtown security, traffic safety, speed enforcement, and updating the zoning bylaw to respond to the legalization of recreational cannabis. Active operational performance plans include crime reduction, violence in relationships, road safety and community relations/visibility.

“Change is a fact of existence. Some things do need change, sometimes it is more about perception and a better communication effort is needed. To effect change I will have to keep informed, do my homework, communicate and work with other members of council to get things done and plan for the future of our community,” she said.

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Jayson Zilkie, for council

“I am concerned about crime in West Kelowna, and the current staffing issue with our RCMP. It’s a growing issue and concern of residents of West Kelowna,” said Zilkie.

“The West Kelowna RCMP are significantly understaffed and this poses major challenges. I plan to address the staffing issue within our local detachment as one of my top priorities as I focus on community safety. RCMP officers have one of the most difficult and thankless jobs in our community. Due to the staffing issue, officers are forced to work significant overtime, creating more burnout, adding to the challenges of leaves of absences due to burnout and PTSD. Reducing the issues by adding more officers will also decrease slow response times that are becoming a growing concern. I do want to thank the West Kelowna RCMP for their efforts despite challenging working conditions.”

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