Three city business organizations will tonight present city council with a long list of suggestions on how to deal with downtown social issues.
The Prince George Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Prince George, and the Gateway Business Improvement Area have come up with a series of demands of city council regarding the proliferation of homelessness, crime, drug problems, and people with mental health issue that have plagued the city for years, but come to a head this fall.
The associations are calling for the city to fund an additional six RCMP officers and two support staff and that these new members be assigned to uniformed patrols of the Downtown and Gateway areas.
The associations estimate these extra positions would cost about $1.8 million per year.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we are requesting that mayor and council consider this allocation necessary to enhance public safety and defer other spending to create a net zero budget impact,” reads the presentation.
The business groups are also requesting that the city work with community stakeholders and the RCMP to develop an Integrated Public Safety and Enforcement Team with specific focus on creating “vibrant and safe spaces for all residents, business owners/operators and patrons.”
The groups are also requesting the city enforce bylaws requiring owners and operators of harm reduction locations to be accountable for the debris, waste and paraphernalia left in the area of their operations. In addition, they want the province to direct each health authority be required to mark paraphernalia used in harm reduction strategies with identifiable markings, ensuring all agencies are accountable for the recovery and disposal of the materials provided to users.
Other items the three business groups are calling for include:
- Increased lighting downtown, particularly in alleyways and alcoves, walkways, and parkades.
- The city and Northern Health to work together to develop a sobering centre.
- The city work with BC Housing and the Government of British Columbia to develop housing and employment solutions for those at risk on our streets.
- That the province develop enhanced, street level mental health assistance for those at risk, creating a better understanding of the at risk community and what treatment assistance can be made available.
- That the Ministry and Children and Family Development be compelled to release unused, or under-utilized property at the Prince George Youth Custody Centre to BC Housing and the Health Ministry to create additional beds, short term sobering centres and long term addictions counselling and recovery services.
- That the Province of British Columbia allocate $3 to mental health, addictions and homelessness solutions for every $1 allocated to harm reduction strategies.
- That the Attorney General review and provide recommendations for modernizing the sentencing practice for prolific offenders.
- That the Attorney General look at alternative systems and sentencing structures, taking into account rural and remote populations. And that restorative justice is strongly considered, providing a layer of accountability in the recovery process.