Letter: Drug addicts taking over downtown

To the editor:

In regards to the current state of the City of Kelowna, once the jewel of the Okanagan which I feel now is more akin to a large East Hastings in Vancouver, my question is simple: Where is the mayor and council—have they become so desensitized to the screaming lunatics and intoxicated individuals, panhandlers and transients on our streets that they fail to see what is happening to our once great city?

It’s a simple question but one that sadly fails to get asked enough, or to the right people.

As a business owner in Kelowna’s downtown, I have seen what can only be described as inner city decay on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

My staff is afraid, the business staff beside ours is afraid, and yet our intrepid mayor sits on his hands. Or if asked, he points to the RCMP or throws the city bylaw department under the bus.

Having called the RCMP, I would say their response is non-existent.

Having read the bylaws, I can say that it’s clearly not a bylaw enforcement officer’s job or mandate to deal with drug addicted petty crime and anti-social behaviour.

But from what I witness, those bylaw officers are asked to do just that and more.

Having spoken with two of those bylaw officers, they are as frustrated as we business owners.

Perhaps this city, which has construction taking place it seems on every corner and predicted to explode in population over the next five to 10 years, would be better served with a municipal police force and not some large federal bureaucracy that I feel has no vested interest in our community.

That is evident by the officers transferring in or out, Kelowna just being a pit stop on their career paths rather than having a personal stake in the city’s long-term future.

Having a city police force such as what Surrey is currently advocating for would enable the mayor and council to direct which areas of concern are of the greatest concern and direct resources towards those issues.

It is time for Kelowna citizens to take back their downtown, and that starts by controlling our own police force.

Otherwise, get used to the police not showing up, bylaw officers cracking under the stress dealing with an issue they shouldn’t be dealing with, and meth addicts on bikes screaming at you and your kids as they ride by because you didn’t give them any money.

Wake up Mr. Mayor. Do your job and start by taking a walk along Leon Avenue and around the downtown.

Steve Kuzak

Kelowna

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