Members of the Business Improvement Areas of BC, including Downtown Prince George, issued a call for “urgent action from all three levels of government to deal with untenable street issues and crime plaguing communities across the province.”
In the statement issued on Monday, the group said crime and public safety are issues throughout the province, in communities including Prince George, Quesnel, Kamloops and Kelowna.
“We recognize there is a vulnerable population that suffers from addiction, mental health and homelessness in this province – and there is no disputing the need for our elected leaders to address those issues as a matter of urgency,” Business Improvement Areas of BC president Teri Smith said in a statement. “However, there is an immediate need to advocate for small business owners, their employees, and the communities they serve that are also being drastically impacted.”
Business Improvement Areas of BC includes more than 70 business districts in every part of the province, including many downtown business associations.
“This is a collective crisis, and we need a collective response” Smith said.
The group is challenging all mayoral and council candidates in the upcoming October civic elections to make commitments to support funding for additional policing, street lighting, sanitation, bylaw enforcement and anti-graffiti programs.
“Downtown Prince George joins our Business Improvement Areas of BC colleagues in seeking the support of all levels of government to work together to make our downtown and every downtown in our country better,” Downtown Prince George executive director Colleen Van Mook said in a statement issued on Monday. “The negative impact of crime and concerns for public safety is becoming more dire every day. Our property owners are losing tenants; our businesses are losing customers and staff; and both are faced with increased costs to either prevent vandalism or remediate vandalism. The well-being of downtown and all its citizens must become a priority for collective action and community-oriented solutions.”
The group is calling on the provincial government to develop a plan to support individuals dealing with mental health, addictions issues and homelessness. In addition, the group is seeking action on prolific offenders, more help for victims of crime, better crime reporting, increased police resources and federal all-party committee on downtowns and main streets.
“Above all, we need a bi-partisan approach to this complex issue that is having a detrimental impact on us all,” Business Improvement Areas of BC advocacy chairperson Patricia Barnes said. “Simply talking about these issues and deflecting to other levels of government is getting us nowhere.”