One city councillor believes aggressive panhandling is increasing and that a crackdown is needed.

Panhandling targeted

One Vernon councillor wants to take action on aggressive panhandlers

One Vernon councillor wants to take action on aggressive panhandlers.

Scott Anderson believes incidents of aggressive panhandling are increasing around the city.

He cited a recent online article detailing multiple assaults on a Vernon street vendor which prompted hundreds of social media calls for the city to do something.

Anderson produced a five-page Facebook handout featuring hundreds of complaints about downtown panhandlers.

Anderson wants a crackdown.

“By all accounts aggressive panhandling is getting worse, and especially so over the past two years,” said Anderson.  “It’s time council stepped up to the plate and did something about it.”

Anderson made it clear that his speaking out should not be seen as an attack on the homeless.

“We should, and are, doing everything we reasonably can to provide help to those who need it,” he said.

“But our citizens have a right to be able to walk downtown without being plagued at every step by someone asking for or demanding money. And our business people have a right to conduct business without being constantly harassed. I walk downtown and every single block has at least one or two people sitting there with their hand out. Some are more aggressive than others.”

Coun. Juliette Cunningham has owned a downtown business for 26 years and agrees people are uncomfortable with panhandlers.

However, in her experience, Cunningham said she has rarely felt intimidated.

“If I’m asked for money, I say, ‘not today, sorry,’ and, to be honest, nine times out of 10, they’ll answer, ‘God bless you or thank you,’” said Cunningham.

“I’ve had a lot of experience on this topic. Some businesses don’t even want a homeless person on a bench in front of their business. They just don’t like it. But we are still living in a free country. I would never support aggressive panhandling. We do have bylaws in place and we have the RCMP that can deal with those individual that become aggressive.”

Coun. Catherine Lord said, from her perspective, she hasn’t seen an increase in aggressive panhandling.

“Yes there are people panhandling, but there are an awful lot of people who are going the other way to earn some money,” said Lord. “I don’t particularly have a problem with panhandlers. The one’s I’ve seen have been pretty good. If somebody gets a little aggressive, say no and keep walking.

“To me it’s not a real problem and I don’t want to make it a real problem and I don’t want to get to a point where the perception is out there that it’s a real problem.”

Cunningham said the city must be careful about “ramping up the rhetoric on this.”

“With all due respect to social media, if people have an issue, they can come to us,” she said. “To keep ramping it up on social media without coming to the proper agencies that can help them…we have to be very cautious on this.”

Clint Kanester, the city’s manager of protective services, told Anderson panhandling complaints to his office have been down in 2015.

“We’re down about 30 per cent,” said Kanester. “The statistics were up significantly last year because of one particular individual.”

Anderson did not make a motion on aggressive panhandlers in Vernon, citing the need for more research into potential solutions, but promised to address it again in the near future.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

$173K to support Okanagan seniors amid pandemic

United Way announces more funding for frontline programs

Vernon couple support Kidney Walk despite setbacks

Jacqueline Marioni has had two kidney transplants; both organs have rejected or are rejecting her

Vernon Vipers land prep school blueliner

Griffen Barr, from Nanaimo, was captain of Shawnigan Lake club in 2019-20

Okanagan home sales increase over last month, still below 2019 numbers: OMREB

Sales, listings see increase over May’s numbers but dwindle in comparison to 2019

Suspicious activity on Predator Ridge bike trails

A rock deliberately placed on a hazardous corner results in bolstered security, cameras

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Princeton RCMP sergeant kills cougar threatening residential neighborhood

An RCMP officer shot and killed a cougar, close to a residential… Continue reading

Pilot project approved: Penticton to allow alcohol in outdoor spaces

For almost two hours, council debated the proposed pilot project, before eventually passing it 4-2

Drugs, machete found in truck with stolen plate driven by Salmon Arm man

Chase RCMP arrest driver and have vehicle towed

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

Top cop calls video of Kelowna Mountie striking suspect ‘concerning’

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Most Read