By Keith Lacey
Special to OsoyoosToday
Solutions to the growing crime problems in the South Okanagan won’t come overnight, but great strides can be made with a concerted effort by police, community leaders and concerned citizens, says Oliver Mayor Martin Johansen.
Kicking off the inaugural meeting of the Oliver Community Safety and Crime Prevention Committee on Wednesday morning, Johansen said the group was formed due to “public frustration with crime” in the area.
The committee is comprised of current and former RCMP members, local leaders and concerned citizens.
RCMP in Oliver and Osoyoos “are doing a great job,” but their resources are limited and that’s why it’s crucial the community works together to try to find solutions and do what they can to deter criminal acts from taking place, said Mr. Johansen.
It plans to “look inside the numbers” and formulate a needs assessment and action plan to try to tackle certain areas of concern.
“What do those (crime) numbers really mean?” said Mr. Johansen rhetorically. “For example, when you see 100 calls for service, how many of those calls are for one person?”
The committee will also look at issues like installing closed circuit cameras in high-crime areas, public safety initiatives taking place in other communities and sharing information with the public in an easy and effective way.
“I think as a committee, we need to be accountable,” said Mr. Johansen. “I didn’t want to just get a group of people together to talk about the problems in the community, then go away and come back again in three months and again talk about the problems in the community. I would like to achieve something.”
Oliver RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Blaine Gervais said offering quality social services to address addiction and mental health issues is going to play a significant role in the success or failure of the committee moving forward.
“We need to deal with these social issues,” said Sgt. Gervais, noting the majority of calls officers in the Oliver detachment deal with are directly related to addiction and mental health.
“If we can tackle that, it will reduce the amount of crime in our community.”
Following May’s needs assessment and action plan meeting, the committee will meet once every three months in Oliver council chambers. The meetings are open to the public and media.
The Town of Osoyoos was also invited to join the committee, with Mayor Sue McKortoff and Coun. Jim King agreeing to take seats at the table.