Respect plays a big part in enforcing the law in Kelowna’s drug-riddled downtown core.
At least that’s the approach of two Kelowna RCMP officers who say arresting their way out of the problem is not going to solve anything.
In part two of our two part series on policing the downtown core, Kelly Hayes looks at how treating the homeless with respect has proven to be an effective way in policing the downtown core.
Sergeant Greg Woodcox hugs a woman he’d first met on the streets of downtown Kelowna.
A hug from a cop is somewhat unusual, but there’s nothing usual about how Woodcox and his partner, Corporal Carrie Seale, police the downtown core. They do it with respect and acts of kindness.
Corporal Seale runs into a woman who has run into trouble with the law before, had a child and is back on the street.
“She’s been on the street since she was about 13 — addicted to various substances,” Seale said. “Got pregnant while she was down here and we helped get her off the street so she could have the baby.”
WATCH BELOW: Kelowna RCMP Cpl. Carrie Seale meets a young woman who she helped get off the street because she was pregnant – only to return to the downtown core.
Meanwhile, another man is another example of Seale’s big heart. He and Seale have a history – he attacked her a couple of years ago during a foot pursuit.
“He wrote me a letter from jail apologizing for his actions and I still have it today,” she said.
Most of the street people know Woodcox by name. They call him Woody — the cop who hugs street people and hands out cigarettes, even though he’s not a smoker. A bond is formed — and a woman who had never met Woodcox before opens up.
WATCH BELOW: Kelowna RCMP Sgt. Greg Woodcox meets with a meth addict in the downtown core.
Another example of Woodcox and Seale’s success in dealing with street people is another homeless man, who was arrested by Woodcox not long ago for dealing meth to pay for his heroin addiction.
“Two, three weeks ago, what happened is I had information that Scott Hutchinson here was trafficking in meth. So I warned him one day, like I usually do. I walked up to him and said ‘Hey, I know what you’re doing. so I think it’s time to stop.’ And subsequently he got arrested for five counts of trafficking meth.”
Despite looking at serious jail time, Hutchinson holds no grudge.
WATCH BELOW: Kelowna RCMP Sgt. Greg Woodcox discusses the impact the temporary shelter called Cornerstone has had on the downtown core.
Woodcox’s tactic is to treat people with kindness and respect and you will get results, along with information. And he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I come down here and everyone says hi to me, high-fives me. If they want something, they ask for it. They’re hardly ever mean to me; I hardly ever have to fight anybody. Why would I want to work anywhere else?”