Salmon Arm RCMP are stepping up their public presence with downtown foot patrols.
Staff Sgt. Scott West says officers will be seen from time to time in the downtown enforcing the Safe Streets Act and other laws, while also interacting on public on more cordial terms.
“This is an opportunity for people to meet with officers and for officers to interact with people when there is not a crisis in the background,” said West in a news release.
During his quarterly report to city council on April 23, West explained the foot patrol initiative was part of the detachment’s ongoing effort to build positive relationships with partners in the community, as well as a way of addressing concerns of downtown businesses.
“I had a chat with the downtown business association (Downtown Salmon Arm), as well as a couple of business owners downtown that I kind of use as a litmus test when I’m looking at what’s going on around town,” said West, adding how over the past year the detachment received 40 to 50 complaints – most involving panhandlers – that fall under the Safe Streets Act. “I did a sampling of those 50 files before coming here today and found that most of those files have to do with where they’re putting their tent or their sleeping bag. Not on the panhandling side of things. So in talking to (Downtown Salmon Arm), in order for me to recognize there’s a problem we need some complaints. But I do recognize the fact that there is an issue there and we’re looking at taking a proactive step before we start getting more complaints rolling in.”
Coun. Kevin Flynn noted how overall there were very few complaints regarding panhandlers, and he likened the situation to local concerns around dangerous intersections and transport trucks running red lights.
“I’m not saying it’s not a problem, but comparatively – I think our traffic stats bear that out too – that we don’t have an intersection that ICBC feels is anywhere near hundreds in the province,” said Flynn. “I just think perspective is needed and I think you impressed that on the Downtown Salmon Arm organization that their issues are important, but… I think we sometimes have a tendency to think our problems are bigger than they are and I think we’re lucky to have you here who has been in bigger cities and seen how bad they can be and bring some perspective.”