Winter is far from over, but the City of Penticton is already making plans for the summer.
City council approved a recommendation to continue a safety and security task force through this summer, adding safe injection sites to its list of priorities.
Corporate services manager Laurie Darcus said safe injection sites are not a high priority item, but part of the discussion around the dangers of used needles.
“One of the conversations was, ‘would there be a potential for safe injection site?’ Instead, what the task force sort of focused on was getting these disposal boxes so that we could at least collect the needles and that they wouldn’t be a danger to the public,” said Darcus, adding the collection boxes are working well, and safe injections sites was just left on the list as an item for discussion.
“It’s not on the top of the list because this is working well, collecting the disposed of needles,” she said.
The task force came together last summer when the Downtown Penticton Association and others aired their feelings and perceptions about the lack and safety and security in the downtown core. This was compounded by incidents like transients taking over in public washrooms as a place to use drugs and vandalizing them, in one case causing over $3,000 damage.
Over the summer, a number of actions were taken, including the RCMP doing 500 man-hours of foot patrol and the city taking steps to discourage loitering.
“There was lighting added down laneways and main streets to provide a more bright and, let’s say, enhanced downtown core so that people might want to come downtown and provide a presence,” said Darcus. “We also have a clean team that has been put into cleaning up where people have left a mess and that will continue into next year, with the support of council.”
All told, the city spent $352,600 on dealing with street problems, including $20,000 on picking up used needles.
“Despite the fact that is a big dollar, the safety and security task force feels they have made a big difference,” said Darcus.
Another big focus for the city was working with partner agencies to develop low income and supportive housing.
“If you give these people a place to live, some of them just need that alone, and we wouldn’t be seeing this type of sleeping in the alleyways, sleeping in doorways that gives people a sense of insecurity,” said Darcus.
Council was unanimous in approving the task force, with a mandate to assist city council and the business community in creating a safe and secure city.
Mayor John Vassilaki, along with Couns. Katie Robinson and Jake Kimberley was appointed to the task force. They’re joining representatives from a number of organizations, including the DPA, B.C. Housing, the city’s bylaw department and the RCMP.
Priorities set for the task force include new bylaws to support enforcement, targeting inappropriate behaviour involving open alcohol, drug use and loitering; environmental design, including lighting; continuing the See Something, Say Something campaign; video surveillance of problem areas and private security and safe injection sites.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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