Retired RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon addressed Kelowna Council with recommendations about how to tackle increased crime downtown.
McKinnon was hired by the city last year to look at what could be done to make downtown safer, and after six months on the job, during which time McKinnon said he had learned a lot, he delivered 21 recommendations to city council. The report was first presented to council in December, however they did not immediately endorse his recommendations, instead, it asked city staff to look at how they could be implemented.
While McKinnon felt the city needs to take more of a leadership role in addressing the multitude of issues that contribute to crime downtown—including addiction, mental health and homelessness—the former veteran police officer warned the city could not “arrest its way out of this (current situation downtown).”
“This is our community’s top priority,” said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran.
“The results may not be coming as fast as we like, but these are things based on best practice, research and evidence and certainly appreciate the path that we are on. We are continuing to address as many of these things as possible to continue to see results ultimately for the safety and betterment of our residents.”
Coun. Charlie Hodge was concerned with McKinnon’s recommendation that the city supply more washrooms and water to people experiencing homelessness.
“There is an immediate recommendation to deal with basic needs of more washroom facilities and water available for people. I find it hard to believe we can build roads and do everything else but we cant find availability to buy water for people and washrooms for people… to me those are basic needs that we have to plan to resolve,” he said.
McKinnon said that the city has installed washrooms behind the Cornerstone Shelter on Leon Avenue and it has been met with some issues that he did not elaborate on. He did however say that they will be looking into solutions along with staff to find a solution.
—With files from Alistair Waters
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