A Penticton vigilante group took to the streets Thursday night to dissuade drug use and loitering in the downtown core by dumping water on buildings and stairwells where users congregate.
Peter Docherty said drug use was prevalent the day after what is commonly referred to as “Welfare Wednesday,” the day when government assistance cheques are issued.
“There was heroin, there was cocaine, methamphetamine, there is a broad spectrum of the drugs that are around town,” he said.
Docherty is a member of the newly-formed citizen’s group “Penticton Regulators.”
“A group of us have come forward, we are dumping water on the stairs hourly so they don’t have the convenience of the stairwells, we’re asking them to leave,” Docherty said.
“My kids growing up have to see this every day, the nonstop reports of the activity here at the church itself, I think this is a house of worship, people shouldn’t be here,” he said outside the Penticton United Church.
Docherty was asked if his actions show a lack of empathy for people struggling with addiction.
To that, he responded, “I’ve fought 25 years of addiction, I’m four years clean… they can deal with it if they want to.”
Meanwhile, the City of Penticton has partnered with local non-profit organizations including OneSky Community Resources to install needle disposal bins on public and private property.
“There’s been an increased number found in our parks and trails and just throughout the city so we want to make sure that everyone is safe,” said Tina Siebert, bylaw services supervisor.
The Penticton Fire Department is responsible for needle pickup and disposal. Fire Chief Larry Watkinson said the department responds to, on average, 15 calls per month.
He said calls increase during the summer months due to the influx of transients, but he insisted that the call volume is not a burden on the fire department.
“It’s an important service to the community to make sure that if people are afraid of disposing of needles, they should contact the fire department, we will do it in a safe manner for them.”
The citizen’s group said they will continue to patrol the downtown core.
“Zero tolerance, drugs aren’t welcome in our streets,” Docherty said.
The Penticton RCMP detachment said it is unaware of the group but Supt. Ted De Jager said the tactics are ineffective in addressing the root causes of homelessness and addiction.
“At a time when we are building relationships with marginalized people in order to bring them into housing and off the streets, groups like this create animosity amongst that very population,” he said.
“We welcome extra eyes and ears on the street in programs such as block watch and Citizens on Patrol. I would encourage this group to join up with us to be a part of the solution as opposed to building walls against the very people we are trying to help.”