“Penticton has the worst crime rate in B.C. and we need to get to the reason of this,” said Penticton coun. Helena Konanz when she introduced her notice of motion to find out how many people have been released from the Okanagan Correctional Centre (OCC) in Oliver and dropped off in Penticton over the last 12 months.
Her formal motion requests for the Minister of Public Safety and Attorney General responsible for BC Corrections to provide statistics and other relevant information regarding the matter.
The motion calls for a letter to be sent to the B.C. office, currently occupied by deputy premier Mike Farnworth. If a response is not received in a timely manner, Penticton city staff will be asked to submit a Freedom of Information request to the province.
Council voted in favour of the notice of motion at their first official meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15. An extra notice of motion was added by coun. Ryan Graham to invite the warden of the OCC to the council chambers to answer questions.
“We’re a small community, we don’t have the services that the larger communities have like detox, rehab, mental health. Most of us in this room don’t have a doctor right now, let alone those who are wandering the streets who have these issues that need to be addressed. We’re too small of a community,” Konanz said about her reason for the motion.
Konanz also called her motion a “fact-finding mission.”
“Many people are not feeling safe and we know from the election, crime is the No. 1 issue in Penticton,” she said.
Konanz was previously on Penticton council when the OCC was approved. It is the largest prison in B.C.
“When I was on council we were promised by the province that people being released were brought to the Greyhound station with a ticket for them to go back to the community where they committed the crime. We all know that there is no longer a Greyhound but is the province keeping their promise?” Konanz added.
Coun. Isaac Gilbert had concerns with the motion and what council would do with the information.
“My only concern with going with a motion like this is that it perpetuates that fear and stigma that people are coming into our community as criminals, and are causing the crime here,” said Gilbert. “If we as a society are saying to ourselves that jail is the punishment, I don’t think we need to continue to punish people who have come out of jail who are trying to rehabilitate their lives when they come back to their community.”
Coun. Campbell Watt also took issue with the motion saying it is putting the cart before the horse.
“We haven’t even set what our priorities are yet,” said Watt, who added that crime may not be the top priority of council.
Coun. Ryan Graham said speaking with the warden might actually be quicker to get answers than going to the province and asking them to formally respond. His motion to invite the warden to an upcoming council meeting got approval from council.
Coun. James Miller commented that although he doesn’t believe that people are getting dropped off into the community, this is the question that the public wants answers to.
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