A Vernon councillor calls for the city to be tough on “trouble makers,” and looks to Penticton as an example. (Black Press photo)

Vernon councillor calls for ‘zero tolerance’ for ‘trouble makers’

Coun. Scott Anderson looks to Penticton for example

A Vernon councillor has called for the city to look south to see how a community deals with severe problems in its downtown core as a result of those living on the streets.

Scott Anderson, in a social media post, refuted The Morning Star’s recent editorial that “the impact of the street-entrenched population on downtown business can’t be tackled without also tackling, or at least mitigating, the overarching issue of homelessness.”

“The issue is not homelessness,” said Anderson. “Not all homeless people are causing problems. Nor is it drug use. Not all drug users are causing problems. Nor is it mental illness. The problem is…that ‘some members of the street-entrenched population’ are causing problems. … ‘Solving’ homelessness will not solve the problem, nor is it impossible to alleviate the problem without solving homelessness.”

Anderson believes an answer lies 113 kilometres to the south, in the City of Penticton.

“What we need to do is make it apparent to the trouble-makers that Vernon is no longer a free-for-all, and we can do that the same way Penticton did – through enforcement and a zero-tolerance attitude,” said Anderson. “We may not be able to solve the problem completely, but we can make it very, very difficult for people to remain troublemakers in Vernon.”

Related: Issues with street-entrenched people increase for Vernon business

Editorial: Homeless impact on Vernon businesses a complex issue

Letter: Props on Fisher’s Home Hardware piece

In July 2018, the City of Penticton announced it was taking a zero tolerance approach to all unacceptable behaviours and illegal activities.

“If you are here to enjoy all Penticton has to offer, ‘Welcome.’ If you are here to break the law, drink and use drugs in a public place, occupy and damage city and private property, your life is about to get complicated,” said the city in a news release. “It is time to take our community back from a small group of people that cause a high percentage of the problems. We encourage residents and visitors to report any activity that threatens the safety and beauty of our home.”

Residents were encouraged to call bylaw services or the Penticton RCMP or 911 for emergencies.

That same month, the city announced it was going to improve downtown lighting. A variety of new lights were installed making Penticton’s downtown Main Street and nearby areas a brighter place to be after dark.

“We lit up the downtown, especially the back alleys where those folks used to congregate,” said John Vassilaki, current Mayor of Penticton.

Vassilaki is a 12-year councillor in Penticton who lost a mayoral bid in 2010 but was successfully elected mayor in 2018, He was not on council when the safety features were introduced.

“All night long, it’s like daylight out there. We spent a considerable amount (of money). I don’t have the numbers but it’s paid off and will pay itself off many, many times over. People feel a lot more secure. The fear factor is not as bad as it used to be in the evening.”

Related: Former homeless man hopes to inspire change for others

Related: Lawyer takes aim at City of Penticton’s ‘war on the homeless’

Related: Stories unite Canadians on homelessness action: UBC study

The city received a $50,000 grant to support the creation of a situation table, which brings agencies together to work collaboratively to ensure vulnerable communities get the best care and support needed, as well as prevent crises and reduce the risk of harms, such as crime and overdose.

In December, Penticton announced the formation of a city safety and security task force with a mandate to assist Penticton council and the business community in creating a safe and secure city. The task force meets for the first time in March.

“We are taking a lot of safety steps for our downtown,” he said. “We are starting budget deliberations Tuesday (Feb. 26) morning, and there are many items concerning crime and safety in our downtown core.

“We don’t go after people as such. We go after bad behaviour, that helped a lot more than anything else to slow down what’s been happening downtown.”

Vassilaki described ‘bad behaviour’ as bullying, drinking and shooting up in public.

Penticton’s mayor is not surprised Vernon has been having the same issues, saying “it’s up and down the Okanagan Valley.”

“It’s a very, very small percentage of the homeless or those with mental illness that are causing the problems we have with bad behaviour,” said Vassilaki. “Get rid of the bad behaviour, you get rid of a lot of the problems we’ve had.”

Penticton will soon be getting 150 new housing units for the homeless which Vassilaki feels will alleviate the issues even more.

Vassilaki estimated that between $300,000 and $500,000 has been budgeted to deal with downtown issues for the city’s budget deliberations.

In September, an online media outlet in Penticton reported the city had spent $350,000 over the summer months to tackle the problems with homelessness, crime and addictions in its downtown area. A city staff member acknowledged that “people were being chased around,” and crime had been reduced in the downtown core, but the same problems were still existing as summer ended.

The report said the city spent $20,000 to pick up discarded needles, $57,000 to repair damage to public washrooms, $40,000 in bylaw enforcement, $90,000 for private security, $47,000 in RCMP overtime and $42,000 on the new security lighting downtown. There was also $26,000 spent on legal fees surrounding a court case involving a well-known local panhandler, and another $25,000 to deal with a local notorious property.



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

IPE Parade draws near

Armstrong’s 120th Interior Provincial Exhibition starts next Wednesday, Aug. 28

Meet Vernon’s newest homeless outreach team

The Vernon Homeless Outreach Team makes its first formal appearance Aug. 28 at Upper Room Mission

Vernon Pizza Huts raise dough for diabetes research

Vernon Pizza Hut locations raised more than $3,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

Downstairs renter of torched Vernon home a British Army veteran, new Canadian

Owen Wilson was just beginning to settle into life in Canada when the blaze occurred

Smiles all around at O’Keefe Ranch’s Family Fun Day

Family Fun Day took place Aug. 18. at the historic O’Keefe Ranch

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

Man shot near Coalmont airlifted to hospital

A man was shot near Coalmont B.C. Saturday afternoon. The victim was… Continue reading

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Racist confrontation in Richmond parking lot caught on camera

Woman can be heard yelling racial slurs, swear words at woman in apparent parking dispute

Okanagan Nation bringing overdose awareness to Syilx Okanagan communities

The Purple Ribbon Campaign for International Overdose Awareness Day is Aug. 28

Most Read