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New Penticton Community Safety Officers will focus on social issues

Once bylaw services is at full staff they will operate 7 days a week, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Four new Penticton Community Safety Officers are being hired and will be visible in the downtown with a focus on social issues. (City of Penticton photo)

There’s going to be a new approach to bylaw services and a more visible presence when four new Community Safety Officers arrive in Penticton.

“The focus for Community Safety Officers (CSOs) will be on social issues, like panhandling, camping, safety and cleanliness,” said Tina Mercier, city bylaw services manager.

City council approved hiring six new bylaw officers for 2022: 4 CSOs, one more bylaw officer and a bylaw office administrator.

“With these new positions, we’ll have a total of eight community safety officers, so we’ll be able to do our checks in the mornings, then into the evening hours, also into the laneways and hard-to-get areas,” said Mercier.

Since posting the new positions in December, Mercier has had hundreds of applications that she is currently going through.

Once the new officers are hired, bylaw services in the city will be seven days a week with hours of 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“It’s going to be a game-changer. The community will notice a difference and we will have a much bigger presence in the community and be more visible on the streets.”

Community Safety Officers will be supporting businesses and those experiencing homelessness and mental health and addictions. This involves doing morning wellness checks with those sleeping in business alcoves or in doorways. The CSOs will move them along so businesses can open but not before finding out how they are doing and seeing if they need to be connected with services, she said.

The CSOs will be busiest between 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. doing these wellness checks.

“We get to know people and try to connect them with services like Interior Health or make sure they are on the BC Housing waitlist. Sometimes we are making sure they are OK medically, some need medication and we can call Interior Health to get them help,” said Mercier.

But help isn’t always there so it can consume a lot of officers’ time, Mercier added.

While CSOs have the same authority as bylaw officers, their focus is different.

Bylaw officers are dealing with property and parking issues and bylaw infractions.

Some residents have wondered when to call bylaws and when to call police.

If there is an immediate threat to safety, someone is trespassing, stealing, open drug use or is experiencing mental health issues, call the police. If someone is damaging public property, parking or dog barking and other property issues than you would call bylaws.

READ MORE: Bylaw service to increase hours

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Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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