Downtown patrols similar to Prince George’s downtown host program played a major role in revitalizing Kelowna’s downtown, says a city councillor from Kelowna visiting Prince George last week to tour the city’s downtown and speak to at the Town Centre Business Association’s monthly lunch meeting.
“Your community will not grow to its potential unless you’re perceived as a clean and safe community,” says Brian Givens.
Givens says that Kelowna’s Downtown Patrol works in conjunction with RCMP officers and the city’s own bylaw enforcement officers. They pick up and dispose of drug syringes, clean up graffiti, provide safe walk’ escorts at night, as well as give directions and help to people in the downtown.
He says since the program’s inception last year safety in the downtown has dropped from being the number one concern of Kelowna citizens to number three and the downtown has flourished.
Clint McKenzie, executive director of the Downtown Kelowna Association, says in their first year patrols have disposed of 227 syringes.
Prince George’s own version of Kelowna’s patrol the downtown hosts has been trying to find funding to stay operating past their initial pilot phase, which was slated to end this month.
City council turned down the Downtown Business Improvement Association’s request for $57,000 in funding for the program last month. The DBIA has since been working with the city to find funding partners to keep the program going.
The entire price tag for the host program is $141,772. Of that the DBIA pays $24,772, and the Metis Association $60,000. The DBIA had been looking for a federal crime prevention grant, but needed matching city funding to qualify.
In Kelowna the downtown association provides $72,000 for the host program, while the city contributes $28,000. A further $50,000 comes from the Okanagan Tenants Association, and other funds come from ICBC.
Kelowna’s downtown hosts also operate from noon to midnight, while PG’s hosts walk their beat during regular business hours. Kelowna hosts are also trained as security guards, while the DBIA doesn’t require security training.