In the face of harassment an Osoyoos businessman has brought the issue of law-skirting transient workers to a head, and he’s putting his money where his mouth is.
Jamie Elder, owner of Unity Skateboards in Osoyoos, has almost matched the annual contribution from the Town of Osoyoos for extra police presence due to the influx of workers in the summer, and he’s done so in the span of two days.
Osoyoos RCMP announced Tuesday that the annual $10,000 boost to police patrols starts June 18, but Elder feels not enough is being done and he has many businesses in town behind him.
“I haven’t hit quite that number yet, but we are very close to it right now in the matter of one day. The initial response from people was pretty much ‘how can I help?’,” Elder said.
Elder talked to other retailers, cafés, restaurants and local hotel owners and managers who he said agreed that there is more to be done about the issue.
“The main focus here is that the amount of assistance that is ready and willing to be given here by community members and business owners alike, it’s huge,” Elder said. “One of the reasons being that the fact of the matter is there is a loss suffered here by all those people that are interested in the project so far.”
“It’s something that we really want to see something done about. One retailer responded to me immediately and said ‘you bet, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is, put me down for $1,000.”
He is still gathering support and doesn’t want to list the businesses that have eagerly hopped on board just yet, mostly due to the negative responses from his Facebook post on June 11.
Elder posted some activity he witnessed from a transient worker and the post stirred up controversy both online and off.
“I’ve had to deal with some negativity at my business, so I want to check with those other folks because it’s a bit of a hot topic right now,” Elder said.
He said people have been spitting on the windows at Unity Skateboards on a daily basis, punching or banging on the windows, giving the middle finger, verbally scathing Elder and coming in to the shop to throw “boycott unity” posters around his store.
Elder feels those people are just proving his point.
“Even within the social media situation and the negative element, it draws more attention to the issue,” Elder said. “It’s a terrible situation to deal with and I have some very nice, mild-mannered staff here and I’m reassuring them regularly that it’s okay, just smile and walk away, and that’s just what we’ve been doing.”
While the police said Tuesday that the situation is getting better as far as dealing with transient workers, who have been known to hang out around Community Beach, Elder feels that more can be done, and he says that most of the local business owners he’s talked to feel the same way.
“What I’m trying to do overall is to eliminate excuses,” Elder said. “Not to say they are all excuses, but the more work we can put into to take away from the reasons why the assistance or the response isn’t there.”
The first issue he is tackling is the adding to police funding for the area.
“The funding is right here, the ability is here to double the police presence that’s been there in the last few years,” Elder said.
However, he acknowledges that it won’t happen overnight. He has his sights set on next year.