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Crime and consequences


This last two weeks at home have been amazing. I love hiking up in Mission Ridge Park, going for coffee in SOPA area, enjoying a meal from the newly reopened Olympia Taverna, and walking around downtown. 


We have such an amazing city.


However, amidst this joy, a dark shadow looms. Distressing headlines have surfaced recently, painting a grim picture. Vandals have struck Von Schweets Treat Shop just weeks after its grand reopening following a closure of 65 days. 


Similarly, Bia Boro fell victim to another robbery, with shattered glass and stolen goods marking the aftermath. Additionally, alarming images of fires set ablaze near residential buildings have surfaced, along with reports of a man involved in an attempted stabbing at a business on Banks Road being caught and subsequently released.


The question echoes through our streets: what is happening to our once vibrant urban spaces?


The essence of our city cores, once bustling with life and offering a safe haven for families and visitors, now stands at a critical juncture. The visible surge in drug use and petty crimes, following the path of decriminalization, not only jeopardizes public safety but also poses a significant threat to our local businesses.


Many shop owners, who have poured their hearts and souls into their establishments, now face the heartbreaking decision to close their doors, citing the changing environment as a direct impact on their customer foot traffic and overall sense of security.


The narrative of Kelowna, as it stands, is one of caution. The sight of closed shopfronts and the palpable tension in the air serve as a stark reminder of the consequences of policy decisions that do not fully account for their wide-ranging impacts.


It is imperative that we take a step back and consider the holistic wellbeing of our community, ensuring that efforts to support those battling addiction are balanced with measures that safeguard public safety and the economic vitality of our downtown area.


The revolving door of the criminal justice system spins ever faster, leaving us bewildered.


Stores are fortifying their security measures, installing cameras, bars, and increasing the presence of guards. Many no longer keep their doors unlocked during business hours, a testament to the brazenness of criminals.


Assaults persist, driving away employees who no longer feel safe working in our urban centres. These audacious crimes have ignited debates about the delicate balance between compassion and accountability. 


While there's consensus on the need for a compassionate approach to substance abuse and mental health, there's a growing demand for measures to ensure Kelowna remains a safe haven for all. This necessitates enhanced policing, better coordination of social services, and community-led initiatives to address the root causes of addiction and

homelessness, while simultaneously tackling criminal elements.


This is the reality we face after seven years under David Eby's leadership — first as Attorney General, now as Premier. The current administration's lack of solutions is glaring. Decriminalization, touted as an answer, has proven insufficient without substantial investments in mental health and addiction treatment facilities.


We need the government to show some humility and admit that their approach is not working.


Reforms within the justice system are imperative; the current catch-and-release approach only exacerbates the situation. Criminals must face consequences for their actions.


In light of these challenges, a collaborative effort among policymakers, law enforcement, social services, and the business community is imperative. This entails bolstering police presence, reforming the justice system, expanding mental health services, and implementing community-led initiatives to rejuvenate our urban spaces.


This fall we go to the polls. BC United has laid out their plan for tackling these issues. We will not accept this new reality because we know better is possible.


My question to you is this: Do you feel safe in our urban areas? Why or why not?


I love hearing from you and read every email.  Please email me at Renee.Merrifield.MLA@leg.bc.ca or call the office at 250-712-3620.

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