Many Penticton business owners are fed up with the constant crime and security struggles they face.
No location in the city faces more crime than the industrial area near Main Street and Industrial Avenue, according to a recent crime map from the RCMP and feedback from business owners.
The city surveyed businesses in the industrial area from Dec. 8 to Jan. 17. 2021 on their concerns on security and crime as well as their views on actions being taken to deter crime.
Monday’s (Feb. 1) Safety and Security Advisory Committee meeting provided city council the results of the survey and the feedback was clear: business owners are angry and fed up with coping with a crime problem they say has grown exponentially in recent years.
Of the 30 participants, 24 indicated that they experience a crime or threat monthly, with seven indicating they face problems weekly.
“I do regret relocating my business here, it has been nothing but problems, obstacles and expense… I have never been a victim of crime until I relocated here and have been in much larger cities,” one anonymous business owner wrote.
Coun. Katie Robinson agreed with the business owners that the crime rate in the area has sky-rocketed after Compass Court supportive housing facility opened on Main Street. The facility was approved by council in 2017 and opened in May of 2019.
“From a policing point-of-view the industrial area is worse than anywhere in our city… exponentially worse,” Robinson said. “There wasn’t really anything out of the ordinary (a few years ago). It was once Compass Court went in that they (business owners) really started noticing major differences.”
Crimes experienced by the survey participants included attempted vehicle theft or vehicle break-ins, stolen property, vandalism and nuisances such as “tagging, littering, defecation, and squatting,” and more expensive crimes due to property damage.
“In the past seven years we have had five break-ins with damage to the building in excess of $40,000 and stolen property of about $20,000 total, twice holes cut in the roof for entry, twice smashed window entry, one stolen truck smashed through front windows and doors,” wrote one business owner.
|Penticton RCMP presented this map of the city's crime "hot-spots" to council Feb. 2. (RCMP photo)|
Survey participants were asked what strategies they are using to prevent crime and nearly all responded that they had implemented alarm systems, improved lighting and installed security fences. Many have also posted warning signs. Two indicated they use guard dogs and four are using security patrols.
Overall, one consistent message was that business owners would like to see more presence and patrols from the RCMP — especially at night. They would also like to see city council petition the courts to impose more serious jail time for offences.
Following the feedback, council made a handful of motions in an effort to quell the crime issue in the industrial area.
Among them were researching ways to use the city’s “family reunification fund.”
The fund was established approximately six months but has not since used it, according to Robinson, and would provide money for marginalized people to connect with their families in other communities.
“An off-hand example would be, I suppose, somebody who moved out here to do some fruit-picking or something along that line and now they don’t have the ability to get back home because they don’t have money” said Robinson. “It’s not a free bus-ticket… it’s a little bit more involved than that.”
Council also voted in favour of sending a letter to Penticton and District Society for Community Living (PDSCL), the organization that oversees Compass Court. The letter will request that PDSCL fulfill their original commitment to provide “wrap-around support” for residents at Compass Court.
When Compass Court was initially approved the city was under the impression Interior Health would be involved with providing support for mental health and addiction problems at the shelter. So far that has not been the case, Robinson said.
“Basically we’re going back to the original letter that PDSCL wrote to the city detailing what they were going to do to make it safe for the community and suggest to them that it was been sadly lacking,” she said.
Business owners who have concerns about crime are encouraged to contact the RCMP for a free evaluation of the security of their property or business. The RCMP’s Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) program provides an assessment that will walk through recommendations for property owners to deter crime by reducing opportunities for crime — a process known as target hardening.
The city has also increased bylaw, RCMP and citizen patrols in the industrial area and is promoting the “See Something Say Something” program that encourages residents to report any theft or suspicious activity. In addition, the city also has plans to launch a large scale block-watch program in the near future.
“We’re not just talking breaking and stealing a few things,” Robinson said. “They’re stealing trucks and equipment worth upwards of $40,000… we’re doing all we can to support the prevention of crime.”