Business groups call for collaboration in Kelowna’s efforts to deal with crime

Issues downtown are something business groups want to weigh in on.

Kelowna business groups have a few concerns about how the city is going forward with plans to enhance safety.

“The Kelowna Chamber appreciates that some action is being taken by the city but is concerned that some of (former top cop, Supt. Bill McKinnon’s) recommendations aren’t being adopted as originally proposed,” said Nikki Csek, president of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, in a news release.

McKinnon was hired by the city last year to look at what could be done to make downtown safer, and after six months on the job, he delivered 21 recommendations to city council.

The report was first presented to council in December, however they did not immediately endorse his recommendations, instead, it asked city staff to look at how they could be implemented.

“Now, we only have a few that council appears to have been asked to support. We’ll be trying to seek some answers from City Hall over the next week or so and hopefully ensure that the business community isn’t being excluded from discussions on issues that are impacting them,” Csek stated.

Csek added she didn’t know why the chamber hadn’t endorsed a key recommendation that called for the city to take a leadership role in bringing together all stakeholders, including those businesses being impacted by increased crime and vandalism.

READ MORE: KELOWNA COUNCIL LOOKS TO TACKLE CRIME HIKE

“Other communities have had success when all stakeholders are invited and when an elected official takes a leadership role,” she said in her statement.

“Kamloops, for example, had a multi-stakeholder action team that was led by their previous mayor that greatly helped in addressing some of the issues impacting their central business district.”

The Downtown Kelowna Association offered a similar view in a press release they issued the same day.

The DKA also reviewed the Public Safety Liaison Report presented to council on April 8, saying they too were upset with the fact McKinnon’s recommendation to create specific multi-stakeholder committee to help address the social impacts of the opioid and homelessness crisis was yet to be formed.

“The DKA is calling for to see the city lead a committee involving stakeholders — including Interior Health, RCMP, City Policy and Planning, Bylaws, BC Housing, URBA, DKA, Chamber of Commerce — to work collaboratively to come up with actions to deal with the social impact of the opioid and homelessness crisis.

The DKA said that such a multi-stakeholder committee will be critical to the success of the city’s efforts to address the social issues facing our downtown core.

While McKinnon felt the city needs to take more of a leadership role in addressing the multitude of issues that contribute to crime downtown—including addiction, mental health and homelessness—the former veteran police officer warned the city could not “arrest its way out of this (current situation downtown).”

“This is our community’s top priority,” said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran.

“The results may not be coming as fast as we like, but these are things based on best practice, research and evidence and certainly appreciate the path that we are on. We are continuing to address as many of these things as possible to continue to see results ultimately for the safety and betterment of our residents.”

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