A crowd of people and bicycles occupy the green space at the Penticton Public Library on July 9. The city has had its no sitting or lying on downtown sidewalks bylaw in effect for just over one month, and its effects are mixed. (Photo by Douglas Druin)

Penticton sees mixed results after one month with no sitting, lying on downtown sidewalks bylaw

Bylaw supervisor Tina Siebert said no tickets have been issued for violating the bylaw yet

It’s been just over one month since the City of Penticton passed its controversial no sitting or lying on downtown sidewalks bylaw, and, by all accounts, it seems to have deterred loitering the downtown.

According to Tina Siebert, the city’s bylaw supervisor, so far no tickets have been issued for violating the bylaw, which could amount to a $100 fine for an infraction. Instead, bylaw officers have taken an “educative approach and seems to be working so far.”

“We continue to recieve calls to all areas of the city, calls for service have slightly decreased in the downtown core for the past few weeks though,” said Siebert.

But both Siebert and Penticton RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager don’t believe the reduction is the result of solely just the bylaw, with both saying that many of the bylaw offenders have left the area to work in local orchards. They said this trend of people leaving the downtown area to pursue work elsewhere is one the city sees annually.

“From an RCMP perspective, it’s quite common this time of year to see changes in the downtown. We saw the same effect last year as the pickers go to the orchards,” said De Jager. “Most of our local vulnerable or street-entrenched population typically go else where, which is not to say that they’re not downtown. We have noticed a difference as compared to two months ago though.”

READ MORE: Penticton city council implements no sitting, lying on sidewalks

De Jager said he thinks this decrease can also be contributed to his officers’ 300 hours of foot patrols since April, and the work they’ve been undertaking with their community partners in the CAST program, and the officer-led CSET program. Both programs aim to connect marginalized individuals with resources and supports, with CAST intervening over 50 high-risk individuals to bring them to support services since it was launched in July 2018.

“Corporal Rock and Constable Grandy have gotten three or four people into treatment through CSET with Interior Health and mental health,” said De Jager. “So some of those real social chronics are not there because they’re in treatment. Which is a really good outcome.”

But the effects of this bylaw haven’t been entirely positive, with the city seeing an increase of displacement of vulnerable individuals, who now utilize other public spaces such as the lawn at the Penticton Public Library. De Jager said asking these people to vacate these spaces is not always possible, but his officers work to build relationships so that when they are asked to leave, they are more likely to oblige.

READ MORE: Residents give Penticton a 2.9 out of 5 rating in terms of safety

“We’ve seen this displacement last year as well. But when you push people out of somewhere, they have to go somewhere else. The only reason that the police can physically move somebody is if they are actually breaking the law,” said De Jager. “If they’re not breaking the law, then they only move because we’ve built a relationship with them and we ask them.

“Corporal Laurie Rock and Constable James Grandy have built a great relationship with these people, so they ask them to move and they move. Bylaw has done the same, they’ve built a relationship as well. They move because they feel respected.”

De Jager said ultimately, the solution to vagrancy in the city’s downtown and public spaces is housing. He said residents will soon see a difference in the number of people living on the streets with the recent opening of Compass Courts shelter, and the supportive housing on Winnipeg Street expected to follow suit and open in the fall.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COLUMN: Efforts preserve and promote local agriculture

Farming will remain an important element in the region

Morning Start: Before Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin

Your morning start for Thursday, June 4, 2020

COLUMN: Is parliament essential?

We need time to dig into the books and ensure that taxpayers are being respected

Three arrests on guns, drug charges after shots fired in Oliver

Two men from Penticton involved in arrests at Oliver home with assault rifles and drugs

Heads up, it’s fawning season in Penticton

Baby deer seen frolicking through downtown Penticton Wednesday afternoon

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

Limited summer camps fill up fast in North Okanagan

Some options for kids opened up by Greater Vernon Recreation Services

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

B.C. woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Horgan calls for national anti-racism program; will pitch idea to PM, premiers

Premier John Horgan said he’s horrified by the death of George Floyd in the United States

Chilliwack dad rescues two young daughters after truck plunges into lake

“I used every single one of my angels that day,” said Dennis Saulnier

Police watchdog investigating fatal crash in Kelowna

Kelowna RCMP received a report of a single-vehicle collision on Bulman Road near Highway 97 on June 1

Kelowna council greenlights ‘The Wedge’

The wedge-shaped building will be built at the corner of Leon Avenue and Water Street

Vehicle stolen in Revelstoke recovered near Salmon Arm after occupants suffer overdoses

Police say they were alerted to the vehicle after occupants treated by ambulance after drug use

Most Read