Vernon votes: Council candidates discuss crime and how to reduce it – Vernon News

Castanet has asked all candidates in the Vernon local election for their opinions on five local issues. Today they talk about crime and how to reduce it.

We have separated comments from Council and Mayoral candidates. Note that not all candidates responded.

ROSS HAWSE: I’m tired of my hard-earned property being stolen and destroyed; I’m tired of being told there’s not much the RCMP can do; I’m tired of being told “this is Vernon” because simply put – this is not my Vernon and it shouldn’t be yours.

Every day there is a new post about someone’s bike being stolen, a shop being broken into or their child’s car being stolen from their backyard. It has to stop. I know the solution is not simple, it is complex.

Housing, mental health, support services, all that. But let’s get the frequent offenders off the streets. Let’s review the federal deposit program and make it safe for me to lock a bike outside a downtown Vernon restaurant or shop and not worry about it being stolen while inside.

STEPHANIE HENDY: Crime is a response to a lack of personal needs, be it inaccessible housing, inaccessible mental health support, or a lack of social support.

I would like to subsidize/review the Downtown Ambassadors program as a city official recently told me that they had very few applicants this year. I would also like to take a survey to see if a SafeWalk program would be desirable.

I would like to work with our MLA to explore how we can increase funding for interior health positions to allow our Cammy Lafleur clinic and supervised consumption site to be open more than 2-3 hours in the afternoon on weekdays.

AKBAL MOUTH: Crime is something that is very difficult for elected local officials to control.

The federal and state governments must do more. Catch and release doesn’t work.

ED STRANKS: I support increased law enforcement and patrols.

Funding for the RCMP accounts for a good portion of the city’s annual budget, and while having enough RCMP in our community is important, the bylaw staff provides an alternative to address many issues, freeing up the RCMP to deal with cope with crime.

Dawn Tucker: I fully support investing in our RCMP and community support services and encouraging increased use of our parks and downtown areas many hours a day to ensure our city is a safe place for all.

I will encourage residents and businesses to contact the Community Safety Coordinator to join or start BlockWatches, report crimes, install deterrents like cameras, and follow tips from agencies like CrimeStoppers to increase their personal safety.

PATRICK VANCE: We must address the need for safety on our streets – not only for businesses and residential residents, but also for marginalized people whose disadvantaged position in society makes them easier targets for criminal activities that lead to theft and addiction.

Crime is sometimes the product of malice and sometimes the product of desperation. It is our job to use common sense criteria to decide whether the response to criminal behavior is increased due diligence or stricter enforcement.

I feel like a lot of people who engage in criminal activity just don’t believe in themselves anymore, and with a total loss of confidence in themselves, it takes community and diligence to do some kind of revival of their human spirit. It will take a change in attitude to believe that assigning hope is more important than assigning blame.

TERESA DURING: We had an increase in policing a few years ago and for various reasons, staffing shortages are common. This is an ongoing problem for many organizations and the RCMP is no different.

I believe that the leadership and programming that is currently taking place is productive and producing good results. City officials also work very hard. I often marvel that their manned hours are mainly during the day or until 11pm and am not sure why that is as many of the crimes they may be required for take place during the night.

I will ask these questions if I am re-elected. I believe that crime prevention must be both a community and community effort. Improved programs could be an option, including neighborhood watch, prevention education, and workshops to help businesses and citizens avoid being targeted. Community Policing is a resource we may be able to work with to help strengthen community education.

KELLY FEHR: Community safety must be addressed through adequate funding and advocacy for RCMP, law enforcement, mental health services and drug use.

During the council’s 2018-2022 term, Vernon has seen a significant decrease in crimes and statute violations committed by individuals identified by law enforcement as “stuck.”

We have increased the number of RCMP and Statute positions. Both the RCMP and Bylaws departments have launched joint initiatives aimed at reducing overdose deaths and getting people indoors. I will continue to support collaborative efforts and invest in community safety initiatives.

KARI GARES: Crime is a federal jurisdiction with local governments managing/setting the budget to ensure there is adequate enforcement through our local RCMP. Our job is to ensure we allocate enough resources to resolve issues quickly and expediently.

As the province now comes up with recommendations on how to deal with prolific offenders, which has been by far the biggest problem, we may see changes in the catch-and-release mentality that’s often attributed to petty crime. We have invested significant resources in both RCMP and bylaw services and implemented many Safety Task Force initiatives to ensure both our residents and our businesses are protected.

We also understand that mental health, including those suffering from substance abuse disorders, is also an issue faced by many in the city centre. We are committed to ensuring that upper levels of government allocate adequate funding to both healthcare and mental health, so that treatment services and housing for those who are difficult to accommodate are a top priority.

BRIAN TYPE: Data compiled by Vernon RCMP shows service requests have declined since 2021.

Vernon’s leadership in providing supportive housing and his contribution to substance abuse programs has proven effective in reducing crime.

On Council, I will champion evidence-based efforts to continue to make our community safer and an even better place to live.

The mayoral candidates’ responses appear below.

VICTOR CUMMING: Our citizens can continue to comfortably walk around the city and use public transport – safety is an important issue that the city is proactively addressing. The combination of prevention, presence and rapid follow-up is crucial.

There has been tremendous success in providing housing for the homeless. Bylaw acts downtown are down 58 percent from 2018 to 2021 and down 33 percent in our parks.

The continued increase in housing for people experiencing homelessness (52 more units to open in October 2022) is vital as it provides a home, security, a place to shelter from potential troubles and stability to move around address other personal and financial challenges. There is no question that prolific offenders are a major problem in Vernon and all communities. The city must continue the provincial government’s strong lobbying efforts with other municipalities to get the legal system to deal more effectively with prolific offenders.

The city must continue to gradually increase the number of RCMP members as the community’s population grows and increase the number of bylaw officers to free up the police force to combat criminal activity.

ERIK OLESEN: Crime has been a constant issue in our city for years. We’ve seen failed attempts at short-term fixes that continue to put our community at risk.

We continue to see businesses facing constant disruptions and slumps, wondering where to turn and who can help. I’ve heard from local residents that they are afraid to go downtown or other parts of the city at night.

I will work with RCMP and business and solicit public input along these principles: Governance, Socio-Economic Development and Inclusion, Collaboration and Partnerships, Sustainability and Accountability, Knowledge-Based.

SCOTT ANDERSON: Much of this is beyond municipal control, and the issue itself is very complex. The part that comes under the city’s direct responsibility is enforcement, and I have successfully petitioned the council to bring in private security at night to stop criminal activity and report it to the police.

But there are other ways to influence change at the provincial level, and I intend to use the Mayor’s Platform to address them. Take, for example, the problem of frequent offenders, a small but significant part of the crime problem. There are a small number of highly motivated criminals in Vernon who will commit petty crime at every opportunity. We’ve all seen them in videos posted to social media, loitering in our backyards and opening our car doors at night. These are not “the homeless”, but rather a fairly small number of housed/unhoused thieves who know how to play the legal game of catch and release.

Just one of the many social tragedies resulting from this cycle is that law-abiding citizens are fed up with blaming the next possible suspect, the “homeless.” A whole socioeconomic class is being blamed for the actions of a few people who should be locked up, and that’s sad. The RCMP calls these habitual thieves “productive offenders,” but I say they shouldn’t have a chance to be productive.

The courts have to crack down on repeat offenders. We must use the mayor’s chair to form alliances across the province, like the BC Urban Mayors Caucus, that amplify our collective voices. When enough communal voices are heard, the province pays attention.

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