Despite some opposition, some Vernon residents support Coun. Scott Anderson’s recent suggestion that the City should take a page out of Penticton’s book when it comes to dealing with “trouble-makers,” a poll suggests.
In an online poll, 48.53 per cent of voters said the City should follow suit with practices put in place by the City of Penticton.
“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 of Penticton in a July 2018 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.”
Another 35.29 per cent of voters said the City should assume more of a tough-on-trouble-makers stance as suggested by Anderson on social media.
Only 8.92 per cent of those who voted said a more complex approach is required, while 7.35 per cent said an overhaul of the justice system, as recommended by Couns. Kelly Fehr and Akbal Mund, is pivotal to the issue.
“Although compassion is a beautiful thing, sometimes it can create a bigger evil. Making it less desirable to tolerate (troublesome) people in a community we are trying to keep strong (and) vibrant,” commented Lori Steele on the poll.
“When our local businesses are struggling and closing because they have less rights… then there is a problem,” wrote Julie Brown.
Another nine people provided their feedback, in various degrees of support, on a tough approach.
“It’s pretty bad when our elders are scared to walk down the streets of Vernon,” added Davidoff Fairfull.
“Or we could decriminalize poverty so our overburdened justice system can focus on the dealers and career criminals it needs to,” countered Shawn Wallinder.
The ongoing debate falls on the heels of a social media post in which Anderson said that the City needs to “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.
“There is no magic bullet here. There’s no way you can stop it but you can certainly mitigate it and we can mitigate it a lot better than we’re doing.”
In response to Anderson’s comments, Couns. Mund and Fehr said changes to Canada’s justice system need to be implemented to help with issues municipalities face surrounding homelessness, addictions and mental health.
“This is a big challenge,” Fehr told The Morning Star Monday. “Until we deal with the justice system, municipalities and the RCMP have major, major challenges. We have to bring other groups like correction services into the fold and be part of the solution.”
Fehr, co-executive director of the Turning Points Collaborative Society, whose goal is “to promote and lead effective, just and humane responses to the causes and consequences of crime and poverty by working directly with individuals, service providers and the broader community,” said the justice system needs a “major, major overhaul.”
“It’s a great punishment tool, but it’s not a rehabilitation tool,” said Fehr. “Until we really start focusing on our justice system, it’s not going to have any impact.
“We can lock up as many people as we want but if we’re pumping out better criminals and sicker people, we’re not doing our community a decent service.”
Anderson said he would like to see the City implement the 40 recommendations made by the city-created Activate Safety Task Force.
“Every single one I’d be in favour of implementing,” Anderson told The Morning Star. “A comprehensive attack like that will actually make a difference. But there is no answer to make everything turn into Sunnyville.”