Businesses upset after reported increase of crime after opening of shelter in Kelowna

Rage grows on Richter

Madison Erhardt

Businesses and landowners near the new homeless shelter on Kelowna's Richter Street are speaking out about an increase in crime and concerns around safety.

Deanne Collinson owns the building at 1036-1050 Richter St. and says there has been a surge in "scary behaviour" in the neighbourhood since the shelter opened in January.

“One of my tenants reported that one of their customers was threatened by someone who had come out of the shelter. She had razor blades and was really unstable," Collinson said, adding that customer will likely "never be back."

She says crime has dramatically increased over the last few weeks.

“The activity has really ramped up with the better weather, so there is a lot of activity out front here. People have been parking and there have been drug deals right outside businesses."

Collinson says she understands that the shelter is needed, but says something must be done about the crime.

“It's the prevalence of drugs and the use of drugs in the area and the ensuing behaviour.”

Shari McDowell, owner of Azimuth Solar Products and Aquassure Accessible Baths, says her stores are targeted daily.

“Every single night I get woken up at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. at 3 a.m. with my motion detectors going off with people rattling the doors, with people hitting the building. I haven’t slept through a night since that shelter opened.”

The shelter, in the former home of Tree Brewing, is expected to operate until March 2022 after receiving an extension due to the pandemic.

Shelter site manager Caitlin McKenny says she sympathizes with the businesses in the community and says they are taking a variety of steps to help, including an increase in security and foot patrols to regularly clean up garbage and paraphernalia in the area.

The City of Kelowna says it is working in partnership with bylaw services and the RCMP to address the concerns.

“Over the last week and a half, the number of RCMP and bylaw has increased in the area. RCMP have foot patrols in the area who are already commencing walk and talks. They are stopping in with businesses, providing their information and hearing the concerns and providing information about who to call and when to call," said the municipality's community safety director Darren Caul.

Caul said the city this week also increased its private security surveillance in the area from six hours a day to 14.

Collinson says she has now purchased a fence that will surround the rear of her building. The fence is expected to be installed in the coming weeks and will cost roughly $20,000.

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