Kelowna RCMP Supt. Brent Mundle. —Image: Capital News file

Downtown drug crime a cause for concern for Kelowna cops

City’s top cop says police presence being bumped up downtown as a result of increase in crime

Kelowna’s top cop says he’s deploying more resources downtown in a bid to fight a growing amount of crime and drug use in the city centre.

RCMP Supt. Brent Mundle told city council Monday he has increased foot and bike patrols in the areas and is having cops in squad cars cruise through downtown more often.

The increased visibility and police presence is a response to what Mundle called an increase in drug activity in the downtown core in recent months.

And the move, coupled with major drug investigations, has resulted in some sizable drug seizures, he said.

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In one instance, 6.6 kilograms of fentanyl, 3.2 kilograms of methamphetamine and 2.5 kilograms of cocaine were seized along with a great deal of cash and several firearms. Charges against 11 people were recommended.

But he said when it comes to small amounts of drugs being openly used downtown, gathering evidence is much harder, as often all the drugs are consumed and there is little or no evidence for police to collect.

Police intercede if they see drug use and issue tickets for possession and, in some cases make arrests. But the suspects are typically released shortly after and scheduled to appear in court.

“We’re dealing with the same individuals with the same addictions day after day,” said Mundle.

On Monday, the city hired one of Mundle’s predecessors, former Kelowna top cop, retired RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon, to work administrative ways to make downtown safer.

Mundle said when it comes to drug use downtown, enforcement alone is not the panacea.

He said the root cause must also be addressed, and that is why he is also increasing the program that sees police officers paired with Interior Health social workers in squad cars patrolling the city to try and get addicts help rather than simply arresting them or sending them to Kelowna General Hospital for treatment when they are picked up.

Mundle’s comments were greeted with concern by councillors and Mayor Colin Basran said police action alone will not be the answer to drug crime problem downtown.

“There isn’t one simple solution to the issue,” he said. “We all have a part to play.”

Coun. Brad Sieben said he feels the public may be reassured to see a stronger police presence.

In total, Mundle said calls for police service were up five per cent between January and May across the city, totalling 29,867 calls.

Including crime downtown, the major increases were in thefts from vehicles and assaults—the majority of which Mundle said occurred among people who knew each other and were not random acts of violence.

The RCMP superintendent also said the public can expect to see increased police presence at public events in the future as the Kelowna RCMP steps up visibility in the community.

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