This picture was taken Monday, July 12 during the middle of the day and posted to the Clean Streets Penticton Facebook page of several bicycles and shopping carts with a man working on a bike outside the St. Saviour’s Anglican Church on Orchard Ave. (Facebook)

Penticton mayor calls on government to help worsening crime and mental health crisis

A protest is planned at city hall with those fed up with brazen thefts and feeling unsafe

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki shares the community’s frustration with crime and agrees the situation seems to be getting worse.

He is calling for help from the provincial government including BC Housing and Interior Health to deliver on promises made about mental health and addiction supports.

“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 Vassilaki.

“Any crime that makes any one of us feel less safe impacts the entire community – whether that’s stolen property, harassment on the street or something more serious.

“We all agree on the need to work together on solutions and to push them forward. But this must be done in a co-ordinated fashion; we don’t need to operate in ways that create more stress in the community.”

A safe, secure and healthy community is a priority for the City of Penticton, said the mayor.

They’ve hired new RCMP officers, increased the number of bylaw enforcement officers and conducting a community safety review.

The mayor’s response is from a planned protest outside City Hall at the start of the July 19 council meeting.

READ MORE: Protest against crime planned at city hall

A new group fed up with what they say is brazen, increased crime in Penticton is planning the protest at city hall.

Jayson Reynen started the Facebook group Clean Streets Penticton in late June along with some other residents who were frustrated with the number of public crimes, including bike theft and a lack of action from the city and the judicial system.

Since starting the page three weeks ago, the number of people who have joined the group has grown to nearly 2,000.

“This is a group of people willing to do what they can to help residents and tourists track down stolen goods and report any suspicious activity,” he said.

The city said residents have already taken steps on their own to prevent crime.

“The community has taken steps by joining groups like Citizens on Patrol, by signing up for programs like Project 529 to help stop bike thefts and Lock Out Auto Crime, conducting a CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) and supporting restorative justice programs. We will be looking to expand these programs and deliver new ones,” said the mayor.

“But it’s not enough just for the community to come together – we need more partners.”

“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. We need BC Housing to deliver on the promised recovery centre on Skaha Lake Road and we need Interior Health to provide effective wrap-around services to those in need.”

“Together, we can make change and I hope to hear ideas from residents on how to achieve these goals through practical and legal methods.”

Penticton RCMP also urged the group to stand down.

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.

“People in our community want to feel safe, and want action. However, the police, nor any citizen can operate outside of our laws in order to persecute those they believe are breaking them.”

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

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