Kamloops citizens are justifiably very concerned about the increase in social disorder and the decrease of community safety in our community. I have heard from many residents and businesses about this.
Covid has made this situation worse. Almost everyone is more anxious and the supports many rely on have not been able to operate as fully.
This is a complex societal issue that requires and demands all orders of governments work together.
I have spent time with many people on our streets, in our back alleys, and in our parks. It breaks my heart to see fellow human beings in such misery. If we provide folks a greater hand up, it is the right way and the most effective way to address community safety for all.
The most effective way to address these issues starts with more outreach, housing, health services, and social services. We must not enable people. Instead, providing these services is the best way to empower people. Drug addiction and mental illness are health issues not criminal issues.
Offering more of these critical services will also reduce negative impacts on homes and businesses.
The RCMP have less tools than they had before, mainly due to court decisions. It’s clear we can’t arrest our way out of the issue; however, we do need to hold offenders, especially repeat offenders, more accountable for criminal acts.
As Kamloops mayor, I will work collaboratively with local partners, to ensure that these complex issues of homelessness, mental health, addiction, and crime are best addressed.
A big part of this work is advocacy and partnerships outside city limits. As Past President of the Union of BC Municipalities and a current director with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, I am fortunate to have very strong relationships with our provincial and federal colleagues. Importantly, I have worked with my colleagues for 4 terms on city council to build very strong relationships with Indigenous peoples.
This current city council has made a good start. Council has funded more community service officers, day spaces, peer outreach programs, and we have supported the construction of more shelter beds.
- Locally funded 24/7 crisis outreach teams
- Shelter facilities and day spaces that are good neighbours
- A Sobering Centre
- More mental health and substance use services. We have to reduce wait lists
- More life skills programs
- Reforms to the criminal justice system that hold repeat offenders more accountable
- Bringing together key leaders across the community, in a coordinated “Team Kamloops” approach, to work together with our provincial government to secure more services
- Working closely with the federal government to ensure that when people commit crimes, they are held accountable
- A restorative justice based initial approach in the justice system
In summary, we need to embrace the hard work of collaboration to address community safety in a real and impactful way. We need to both show empathy and require accountability. We can fund some critical services ourselves and we need to be effective advocates to ensure action from other orders of government. This continues to be a big challenge but it is also a massive opportunity to make positive change.
We are Kamloops and I know we can do it.