The City of Kelowna is ramping up its summer safety program downtown.
The city says it recognizes the importance of safety to residents, businesses and visitors and with summer in full-swing, and more people downtown, more resources are needed to keep everyone safe.
“We recognize that there has been an increase in concerning issues, including around City Park and Leon Avenue,” said Joe Creron, deputy city manager. “The situation in downtown Kelowna is not unique and is seen across Canada. We’re continuing to invest in resources to ensure that our downtown continues to offer a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.”
The annual move comes just days after an altercation at the Queensway bus loop downtown that resulted in a 23-year-old man dying of stab wounds. Esa Carriere died following the altercation late July 1 just as the annual Canada Day fireworks display ended nearby.
From now to September, four joint RCMP/bylaw bike teams will patrol the downtown and surrounding areas. Acting as “eyes on the street,” the rider will patrol seven days a week.
The city says the public will also notice more officers patrolling the streets on foot and in cruisers for increased safety.
Their efforts are supported by City of Kelowna park ambassadors and Downtown Kelowna Association ambassadors who provide a visible presence and resource for people seeking assistance.
The 2018 city budget added four more RCMP officers and four more bylaw officers to provide an enhanced security presence downtown. Those positions are currently being filled.
“We are committed to reducing crime and recognize that in order to succeed in making Kelowna safe, we need to continue to work with community partners to develop ongoing strategies in prevention, education and treatment,” said Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey, spokesman for the Kelowna RCMP.
“The incidents that have occurred in City Park and the downtown area within the past few weeks are being actively investigated and dealt with.”
In addition to enforcement, the city says it also values and understands the need to provide services to its most vulnerable population—the homeless. It has taken a leadership role in facilitating the development of the Journey Home Strategy which was endorsed by Council on June 25.
The strategy works alongside the Kelowna’s Healthy Housing Strategy to address council’s top priorities of homelessness and housing diversity. Focusing on partnerships, land contributions, policy, zoning, grants and incentives, the strategies align to facilitate more affordable housing in Kelowna. This includes subsidized housing, rental market and home ownership.
Last month, construction of 46 units of modular housing with 24/7 support services began on Commerce Avenue. This housing, a B.C. Housing project, will offer people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness the stable home they need, so they can focus on other areas in their lives.
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