More than 40 recommendations were made to Vernon city council this afternoon after a task force studied homelessness and other social issues affecting the downtown core.
From drug needles littering parks and streets to increased crime to aggressive homeless people, many say Vernon’s downtown has become unsafe.
“No longer can we sit back and tolerate bad behaviour, downright criminal behaviour,” said Darrin Taylor, chairperson of the Activate Safety Task Force.
“I’ll be extremely disappointed if council doesn’t act and I think the taxpayers of Vernon will hold them accountable at election time if this gets swept under the carpet.”
Among the recommendations were:
- The expansion of RCMP foot and bike patrols;
- An effort to arrest ‘Johns’ to hinder prostitution;
- Council support a proactive approach (instead of complaint-initiated) to bylaws regarding drug use, graffiti, litter, prostitution and panhandling;
- The city fund private security for an after-hours patrol;
- Encouraging businesses and the public to report open drug use/trafficking;
- The city initiate and fund a needle refund program;
- Changing pick-up times so garbage or recycling isn’t left out overnight;
- That B.C. Hydro replace burned out lights in a timely manner;
- The city fund and support disposal costs of illegally dumped refuse on private property;
- Council approve funding for toilet facilities that allow minimal but sufficient privacy, such as the Portland Loo;
- The city requiring retailers to use theft protection;
- And that council ban commercial shopping carts on public property with in the Business Improvement Area.
Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund said some recommendations would be very easy to implement, maybe within a couple of weeks, while others could take six months.
It’s called the Activate Safety Task Force, and its goals are to address issues related to homelessness, poverty, addiction and criminal behavior in downtown Vernon.
This afternoon, Vernon city council will receive a report from the task force and what impact those social issues have on local businesses.
Task Force chairperson Darrin Taylor says some individual business owners have taken it upon themselves to act out in frustration, but says that’s not effective. According to Taylor, the solution is a community-based approach and getting everyone to help.
Members of the task force include Brian Quiring, Kari Wilton, Kevin Korol, Selena Stevens, Vickie Eide, Rick Lavin, Cst. Kerri Parish and Scott Anderson.
In related news, last week, Penticton issued a zero-tolerance strategy regarding unacceptable behaviors and illegal activities in the downtown core. The strategy was bluntly titled ‘the party is over.’
“A very small amount of people are causing a tremendous amount of problems in our community,” Peter Weeber, Penticton’s chief administrative officer, told Global Okanagan.
Weeber added that city council has made it clear that it supports local business, which pays bills, while “the problem makers aren’t paying any bills.”