Pressure to deal with crime in West Kelowna results in town hall meeting

A large crowd is expected Thursday evening at a town hall meeting that will address criminal activity in West Kelowna’s downtown.

“You’re scared to walk down the road with your grandchildren,” said Lee Ann Schmidt, owner of JK Scmidt Jewellers.

The jewelry store has been operating in the city’s downtown for 40 years and Schmidt says criminal activity has never been this bad.

“They’re very bad,” she told Global News. “They have escalated in the last six to eight months.”

Schmidt said the situation is concerning for both customers and staff.

“We’ve had a lot of customers express concern that they are scared to walk into the store,” Schmidt said. “We’re extra careful.

“We go out together, we don’t ever go out alone, we watch everybody in the back at their cars. Our cars have [been] gone through.”

Schmidt said that she and her staff watch the criminal activity from their front windows almost daily.

“It’s like watching a TV show,” she said. “Often you’ll see people buying and selling drugs.”

Many believe the rise in criminal activity coincides with the opening of an emergency shelter at a downtown church late last year, a shelter that has now been transformed into interim housing for the homeless.

“We’ve had stolen goods left on the property, we’ve had gauze with blood on it,” said Dr. Corrina Iampen, owner of Sensei Laser and Vein Rejuvenation. “We’ve had feces left outside that we’ve had to be responsible for cleaning up.”

The cosmetic medical centre has been broken into, with thousands of dollars worth of equipment stolen.

Iampen is so concerned, she has now started a petition to prompt city council to take action.

“I started on Tuesday and I believe about 150 people [have signed] already,” she said.

Chris Meyer owns Total Image Auto Sales.

He showed Global News a shed on his property that has been ransacked numerous times by thieves, with a number of items stolen.

“Tires, tools, anything that’s of any value right,” he said.

He’s worked in the area for four years and believes crime activity these days is at its worst.

“It’s definitely getting worse,” Meyer said. “We’re definetely looking for action. It would be nice to see something done.”

City councillors admit they’re been inundated with complaints, which have now led to a town hall meeting.

“We take it very seriously and it is a big deal,” said councillor Jayson Zilkie. “The point is to listen to our residents. We want to hear from them, what are some of the challenge and what are some of the potential solutions, because we don’t have all the answers, but we definitely believe there are some great solutions out there.”

The townhall meeting goes from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., on Thursday and takes place at the Westbank Lions Community Centre.

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