The city wants feedback on its Safe Public Places Bylaw that will set clear expectations for behaviour within public places and gives authority to Community Safety Officers to enforce those expectations.
The proposed bylaw would ban open drug use in public places and would exempt safe consumption sites or other areas designated for such use.
Mayor Julius Bloomfield said the bylaw would be no different than a smoking ban on public beaches and in parks, bylaws around where liquor can be consumed.
Before considering the adoption of this bylaw, the city is gathering feedback to help council with its decision. The Safe Public Places Bylaw was given its first reading on March 21, initiating an engagement process to consult health officials, community agencies and residents prior to considering the bylaw for adoption.
The city is holding an Open House at the Penticton Trade & Convention Centre on Tuesday, April 11 between 5 and 7 p.m.
They are also hosting an online information session on April 19 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 pm. (Get the meeting link at shapeyourcitypenticton.ca)
The Safe Public Places bylaw is a reaction to the public’s outcry to crime and disorder connected to street drug use, said Bloomfield. Penticton RCMP deals with more calls for mental health and addictions than any other city in the Okanagan, amounting to about six calls a day for officers to attend, said Penticton RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter earlier.
The Safe Public Places Bylaw would give bylaw officers more power when responding to calls on public disturbance, drug paraphernalia and drug use, spitting, vandalism, loitering and harassment, among other issues.
If passed later in the year, the Safe Public Places Bylaw would give bylaw services the legal right to deal with such situations without the involvement of RCMP.
The program is designed to free up the local police force which spends more than 50 per cent of its time on these types of calls.
As for how they would enforce the ban on open drug use, bylaw officers would ask for voluntary compliance and then have the power to move them, directing them to safe supervised consumption sites they can go to.
Sicamous and Nanaimo are also considering a similar bylaw.