More than 150 people showed up at Gyro Park in downtown Penticton on Tuesday to protest for action on what they say is the out-of-control crime element taking over the city.
“Let’s work together to make our streets clean again. This is our Penticton,” said protest organizer Jason Reynen, who also helped form the Facebook group Clean Streets Penticton.
Shannon Stewart read correspondence from a member of the group who is a born-and-raised Pentictonite who is “tired of seeing her town dragged down.”
Stewart explained that this woman is in her 60s and had her house broken into last year and then this year was cornered in a bathroom by a criminal. She is feeling vulnerable for the first time in her life.
“It’s time we stop normalizing this behaviour,” this woman said. “Most of us are fed up or scared. It’s time for politicians and society to say we shouldn’t have to live like this.”
The group called Clean Streets Penticton formed on Facebook a couple of weeks ago frustrated with the number of brazen bike thefts and the amount of crime and harassment they said is taking place all over town.
Reynen said he helped form this group after having his bike stolen from his office and also other thefts.
He got his bike back but not everyone can.
The group wants to help reunite victims with their stolen goods while also spreading awareness about crime spots and criminals.
In less than two weeks, more than 3,000 have joined the Facebook group.
Many post pictures of camps where bikes accumulate or post pictures of suspicious people. The group has helped retrieve some stolen items and will continue to do so.
Reynen said he knows the RCMP is just as frustrated with the situation as residents are. The reason for going to city hall is to make council aware of citizens fed up with lawlessness taking over the town and that the city should be doing more.
He told the crowd they have met with the mayor and RCMP and will be sharing details about that meeting.
Another protester named Marcus said he joined the action after seeing his town go downhill. “I’m here to show that we care and are looking for change,” said Marcus. “Just yesterday I saw four different incidents of chopping up bikes, and open drug use. I run a small business and it’s tough to replace your stolen tools.”
Both the mayor and the RCMP say they share the frustration of the increasing level of crime and lawlessness. “We’re all concerned about community safety and understand the frustration that many are feeling in our community as they sense our city is changing for the worse,” said Mayor John Vassilaki.
“But this must be done in a coordinated fashion. The province needs to step up and deliver what we’ve been promised. It’s time to stop the catch-and-release program that sees a small group of people consuming a high percentage of police time.”
Penticton RCMP Const. James Grandy said police do share the community’s frustration but the process to prosecute someone for a crime has become complex and lengthy.