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‘Work with us’: Seniors in Kelowna building plead for city’s help to combat crime

Click to play video: 'Seniors addressing crime in their Kelowna building say they’re getting backlash from city' Seniors addressing crime in their Kelowna building say they’re getting backlash from city
Seniors addressing crime in their Kelowna building say they’re getting backlash from city – Jun 29, 2022

Residents in a downtown Kelowna condo building have had enough of criminal activity and property damage.

“We’re still under siege,” said Warren Finch, a resident of Bertram Place and who’s also a member of the condo’s strata council.

Finch told Global News the building, which is made up of mostly seniors on fixed incomes, has been the target of crime and other unwanted activity for the last couple of years.

Finch said break-ins are a regular occurrence and are causing thousands of dollars in damage.

Read more: ‘We’re kind of under siege’: Residents of Kelowna condo building plead for crime activity to stop

Theft from the building and drug use around the property have also become rampant, said Finch, adding residents are feeling vulnerable and unsafe, as well as angry.

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“We’re feeling frustrated,” he said. “On the verge of breaking.”

Finch said residents are pleading for the city’s help. But instead of receiving support, they’re encountering what he calls resistance.

“We’re feeling unsupported by the city,” he said. “We’ve tried to do some things here to make ourselves feel safer … but we’re getting backlash from the city.”

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Some of the backlash involves two underground parkade doors.

In an effort to reduce break-in entry points, the doors were welded shut in 2019, with the approval of the Kelowna Fire Department.

“They deemed that we have two other exits. They’re sufficient enough for a fire escape,” Finch said.

However, the areas around those doorways were still attracting criminal and unwanted activity.

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“Shooting up, defecating, even having sex,” Finch said.

So the strata council took matters into its own hands.

With the doors no longer in use, they used plywood to block the exterior stairwell and filled it with rocks, which has resolved a lot of the issues around the doorways.

“That has solved our problem,” Finch said.

However, the city’s bylaw department told the residents they need to restore the areas back to their original state because no permits were issued.

Finch said bylaw officers even told them they will start fining them if restoration work isn’t done.

Residents are upset, said Finch, adding common sense should prevail given the doors are no longer in use.

“We’d like the city to work with us on how we can resolve this without having to spend thousands of dollars,” Finch said.

Read more: Kelowna Mounties ready for summer crime uptick: Superintendent

The city’s mayor said he’s sympathetic to the residents’ concerns.

“I can certainly understand their frustration, but there are bylaws that all residents need to adhere to,” mayor Colin Basran said.

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But Basran promised the city will work with the residents to find a cost-effective solution.

“I understand the urgency, so I would commit to having our staff look into this and help them come up with a solution that’s going to rectify the situation,” he said.

Basran also said when it comes to crime in Kelowna, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes to combat it.

“There’s more than there’s ever been going on behind the scenes,” he said. “But you get the frustration because this is not a quick and easy fix.

“Getting the province to change and make changes to our justice system to stop this catch-and-release cycle of prolific offenders who are doing most of the crime in our community … it’s not a quick fix, but I can tell you that we finally have their attention and there’s a lot of great work going on right now to make change.”

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