Business owner tired of dealing with fires, vandalism downtown Kelowna

Alley fire destroys bins

Another Kelowna businessperson is lamenting how much vandalism and other crimes have impacted their business.

The Coccaro family has owned several restaurants in downtown Kelowna over the past 50 years, including La Bussola, the Curious Cafe and Gather. Luigi Coccaro can remember when his father was dealing with similar issues on Leon Avenue 30 years ago.

"It's getting worse and worse," said Luigi Coccaro, about the struggles facing business owners.

"Getting tired of coming to work and having homeless and crime at work. We have been downtown for 10 years at the Curious and 50 for La Bussola and it never has been as bad as it is now."

Coccaro says he read the story about the Rutland business owner Stephanie Larsen, who is also fed up with crime and homelessness in that neighbourhood.

While Larsen points the finger at the province for moving its Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction office into the neighbourhood, after which street problems worsened, Coccaro blames the City of Kelowna.

"Our mayor needs to start doing something, blaming issues on the province is getting tiresome. It's time for Tom to step up and do something, he claimed he was gonna fix things when he campaigned — the time is now for him," Coccaro says.

Coccaro points to the alley beside the Curious Cafe on Ellis St. which recently went up in flames, completely melting several large plastic garbage bins.

A photo shared with Castanet shows the damage left by the fire and scorch marks on the side of the Interior health building, located beside the Curious Cafe.

Coccaro says he feels like a tiny percentage of the population is responsible for the majority of this type of crime in Kelowna and he'd like to see a made-in-Kelowna solution.

"It's getting worse and worse. I've given up hope. I have no faith they'll do anything about it, something has to change" Coccaro said.

Last week Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas announced his long-awaited task force on crime report is ready and is being voted on by council on May 27.

The report comes 11 months after Dyas struck the 13 member task force.

Through nine meetings, the task force brought together a series of recommendations under seven specific headings, including:

  • Enhancing business improvement association community safety programs
  • Increasing resident engagement and education in crime prevention and reduction
  • Increasing support for treatment and recovery
  • Partnering with outside agencies to establish sobering and assessment centres
  • Exploring creation of a full-continuum, multi-care site
  • Advocating for continued follow through on 2022 Transforming Policing and Community Safety in B.C. report
  • Continuing to advocate for measures that address repeat (property) offending and increase public confidence in the justice system.

-With files from Wayne Moore

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