Homeless camp fire

A small fire at Kelowna's officially designated campsite for homeless people was quickly extinguished in early July by firefighters. A downtown business group said Monday problems associated with crime and disorder were reaching a "crisis point", and called for more effective action by all three levels of government.

Crime and social disorder in downtowns across B.C. is reaching a “crisis point”, a business lobby group says.

Municipalities along with the provincial and federal government must do more to address the problem, says the Business Improvement Areas of B.C.

The group is calling for more local funding for police, better sanitation services, more street lighting, anti-graffiti programs, and stronger bylaw enforcement.

As well, it wants the province to provide more funding to help people with mental health and addiction problems and to provide better support to victims of commercial crime.

Ottawa should establish an all-party committee focused on issues faced by downtowns and main streets across the country, the group says.

“Above all, we need a bi-partisan approach to this complex issue that is having a detrimental impact on us all,” BIABC  spokesperson Patricia Barnes said in a Monday release.

In its press release, the Downtown Kelowna Association echoed the call for action from all three levels of government “to deal with the issues of public safety and crime that is reaching a crisis point for businesses and communities.”

The association runs a Downtown On-Call program to help businesses and residents concerned about unwanted or disruptive behaviour in the central core.

“Downtown On-Call is experiencing unprecedented call volumes from our member businesses and visitors to downtown Kelowna, and our Clean Team is constantly cleaning as the street population moves from space to space,” said DKA executive director Mark Burley.

For its part, the City of Kelowna issued its own press release later Monday saying it supports the calls for action from the business lobby group.
Seventy additional safety related positions, including 39 new RCMP members, have been approved for Kelowna in the past four years, the city release states. The city has already undertaken other measures called for by the group, Mayor Colin Basran says in the release.