Don’t be surprised if you see more RCMP officers than usual patrolling the city streets this weekend.
Const. Kris Clark, media relations officer for Kelowna RCMP, said Mounties will be out in full force to ensure residents and visitors are enjoying themselves safely.
“This is a major weekend for us,” said Clark.
“Despite the fact that it’s Center of Gravity, it’s a long weekend in a busy town. We enhance our patrols both to aid the general duty officers and to support…Center of Gravity.”
There weren’t too many serious issues associated with last year’s August long weekend, according to Clark.
“We put a lot of guys on foot in the downtown core to support both Center of Gravity and the COG House.
“The event itself last year was fantastic, it was very well behaved. We had a few minor intoxication issues and some underage intoxication issues, but overall the event went very well.”
Clark said the situation gets challenging when tens of thousands funnel out of City Park.
But Scott Emslie, organizer of Center of Gravity, said crowd control is a top priority.
“When we flush our venues, we have (several) programs in place to move crowds throughout the city—we want to make sure there is a venue for people to go to,” said Emslie.
One of those solutions is the COG House. Organizers have rented out the Kelowna Curling Club to provide a club-like atmosphere for Center of Gravity attendees who want to keep the party going.
Emslie noted a number of school buses will shuttle people from City Park to various alternate venues, away from the downtown core.
“We’re trying to make sure we’re taking care of people inside and outside of our gates.”
Both Kelowna crime rates—highest in Canada in 2012—and impaired driving offences this year—359 since January—have kept the RCMP in local headlines over the past two weeks.
Clark noted the impaired driving statistics illustrate local Mounties’ focus toward getting drunk drivers off of the streets and improving road safety. This weekend residents and visitors can expect RCMP officers to be conducting roadside checks as well as roaming patrols, he added.
The Combined Special Enforcement Unit will also be assisting RCMP over the long weekend.
“With events such as Center of Gravity, we attract a variety of different people. With that comes gang members and their associates,” said Clark.
“We enjoy the comfort have having support services like CFSEU, but we’re out there proactively and we’ve got four full-time teams that are basically dedicated to gathering evidence against gang members, their associates and prolific offenders.”
A section of roadway, from Bernard Avenue and Mill Street to Abbott Street and Leon Avenue, will be closed for approximately two hours in order to facilitate pedestrians exiting City Park Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening.
The road will be closed from about 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. each night with access for shuttle buses only.
Parents and designated drivers are asked to pick up their passengers on Mill Street, or another appropriate area outside of the downtown core, in order to reduce congestion as much as possible.