Black press file

Kelowna set to crack down on panhandlers

New panhandling bylaw coming in the near future

Kelowna is set to crack down some more on panhandlers in the city.

On Monday, at its regular weekly meeting, council was told a new panhandling bylaw is currently being prepared by city staff to address issues such as panhandling near banks and automated teller machines and safety issues associated with begging for money at traffic intersections.

The new bylaw, to be presented at an upcoming council meeting, is in response to reports of panhandlers getting more aggressive.

Coun. Maxine DeHart said of late she has seen panhandlers “dancing” among traffic at the intersection of Leckie Road and Highway 97 near the hotel where she works in order to get money from drivers.

She said not only is it dangerous, but it also seems to be a sign some panhandlers are getting “a bit more aggressive.”

The issue of panhandling in the city came up Monday during an update for council of the city’s bylaw enforcement measures.

Bylaw manager David Grazley said more than 13,000 bylaw complaints were made to the city last year, a number that is up 70 per cent since 2012.

During that time, transient files went up 189 per cent, traffic and parking related files rose 106 per cent, zoning related issues increased 105 per cent, noise complaints were up 88 per cent and unsightly premises increased 22 per cent.

In 2013, bylaw services had a compliment of 12 officers and a manager.

“Our only increase in staff to date has been the addition of a supervisor and one officer to handle this 70 per cent increase in call volume,” said Grazley.

Since last fall, the bylaw department has divided the city up into three zones for patrols by bylaw officers and as a result has seen efficiencies, especially in terms of the amount of driving officers have to do each month.

It has also allowed officers to become better acquainted with the areas that they regularly cover and are able to recognize problems a little more quickly.

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