Kelowna, B.C.’s downtown patrol stretched to the limit by shortages

Click to play video: 'Kelowna’s Downtown Patrol stretched to the limit'
Kelowna’s Downtown Patrol stretched to the limit
WATCH: Another industry is being hit by shortages. Kelowna's downtown patrol, known for monitoring city streets, is dealing with staffing issues and it could start to impact local businesses. Jasmine King has more. – Sep 14, 2022

Another industry in B.C. is being hit by shortages. Kelowna’s downtown patrol, known for monitoring city streets, is dealing with staffing issues and it could start to impact local businesses.

The downtown patrol, commonly known as the people in red shirts, are employed by Kelowna’s Downtown Association. They can be seen helping de-escalate situations, providing safe escorts or dealing with aggressive panhandlers. Some days they only have two members on patrol.

“Our team’s not at maximum capacity. That’s not to say that we’re not out on the street answering our phones, but we’re having staffing challenges on that side of our business as well,” said Mark Burley, Downtown Kelowna Association executive director.

Read more: Business group calls for ‘urgent action’ against crime in B.C.

The patrol receives a high volume of calls each day to deal with incidents in alleyways, needle pickups and removing unwanted individuals from businesses. With less staff, wait times have increased.

Story continues below advertisement

“We’re busier because we’re doing the same number of calls per week with fewer people as we were last year with more. If we’re doing 50 calls in a day with just four people and we were doing 50 calls with six last year,” said Burley.

Businesses on Bernard Avenue are grateful for the downtown patrol and hope the service continues to grow.

“We just had our window smashed so having people walk around checking in on the store, checking in on the homeless people, checking in on stores and stuff that are downtown, it’s hugely important to have them. I wish there were more of them,” said Kerri Brandel, manager of Calowna Costume.

Brandel says they get visited by the downtown patrol once a week and call them for their services at least once a month.

Read more: Weapons, stolen property seized in homeless camp by Kelowna RCMP

Burley says they are just like any other business dealing with staffing and recruitment issues. They are currently working with the city to secure this year’s funding.

“We always have to be mindful of our budget. The city does give us grants every year that go towards both on-call and the clean team. We work with the city and we have a great relationship with them when we need to increase that,” Burley said.

Story continues below advertisement

A lot of the officers are overlapping shifts and working overtime to increase the number of members on-call.

Sponsored content