Penticton mayor John Vassilaki wants to make community safety a priority, introducing several notices of motion that focus on getting more police and bylaw officers in the city.
At the Sept. 7 council meeting, Vassilaki introduced four notices of motion, the first to make community safety the focus of the 2022 budget. His motions include funding for three additional RCMP officers, four additional bylaw enforcement officers and two extra community safety officers in the 2022 budget.
In addition to Vassilaki’s motions, Coun. Campbell Watt also introduced a notice of motion that council direct staff to look into the cost, legality and effectiveness of putting cameras in the downtown.
The motions will be considered at the Oct. 5 meeting.
This comes after council turned down the mayor’s motion in May to hire more bylaw officers. In July, council turned down the mayor’s request to hire five more officers after Penticton’s police chief said his officers’ caseload was unsustainable.
In the end, council agreed to hire two more officers. This week, Penticton CAO Donny van Dyk confirmed to the Western News that the city has put in the request to the RCMP to start the hiring process for those two officers. Bringing a new officer to a detachment can take up to a year.
Supt. Brian Hunter told council that officers are experiencing burn out and can only be reactive and will have no presence in the community beyond responding to crimes due to low staffing levels.
Following council turning down five officers, the owner of Ogo’s ice cream was attacked with a hammer and robbed. There have been no arrests. Since then, several violent incidents have taken place including a woman struck from behind while she was paying for parking downtown.
An unidentified man was found critically injured at Pen Hi last Sunday morning (Sept. 5). Police deem it to be a homicide but no more information has been released since then.
This follows three other murders in Naramata this year that have been deemed to be connected to drugs and gangs.