Penticton has a crime problem and city council has made it clear they don’t believe additional policing is the answer.
At the July 20 special meeting, council, in a 4-3 vote turned down the mayor’s motion to hire five more police officers. Instead, Coun. Katie Robinson made a motion to hire two officers. Coun. Campbell Watt added to the motion that staff should study public safety services in this town.
And then Sharon, the 70-year-old owner of Ogo’s, an iconic ice cream shop in downtown Penticton is beaten with a hammer and robbed while working at her place of business. The shocking and disturbing crime has shaken the town, with the victim’s daughter calling out council’s decision not to put policing and public safety as a priority.
Penticton was recently given the notorious title of having the worst crime rate in the Okanagan, mostly driven by property and petty crime, according to Statistics Canada.
Council’s decision also came after Penticton’s chief of police once again reiterated how dire the situation is in his detachment, saying that all police can offer citizens is ‘reactionary’ policing.
For years, Penticton’s top cops have been sounding the alarm of how understaffed, overworked and burned out police officers are in this town. They have the largest caseload per officer in B.C.
A sergeant with Penticton RCMP told the city’s safety advisory committee that they’ve had to collapse a number of units just to handle the amount of calls coming in. She also said they can’t have any visibility because they don’t have time.
When all the top brass in your police department are saying over and over again that this caseload and high demand for service are “not sustainable” it’s time to listen.
Too expensive, said Robinson and coun. Julius Bloomfield as to why they wouldn’t vote to add five police.
Bloomfield also said crime is down in Penticton, according to RCMP’s quarterly reports.
Both pointed out, rightly, that it is the revolving door of the justice system that contributes to a wealth of Penticton’s crime problems.
Members of the public and business owners are frustrated and fed up dealing with crime and social issues at their doorsteps. Many residents question why city council found money in their budget for a bike lane but not for public safety. This council also turned down a request by the mayor to increase the bylaw service’s budget.
Adding more police won’t solve the whole crime problem but it could solve the issue of officers suffering burnout, stress and not being able to serve the community in the capacity they know they should.
If we don’t have our detachment and our city on the same page and coordinating to best protect the public, we are heading for some difficult days.