Panhandling & transients plague downtown Kamloops

By Tanya Cronin
July 13, 2016 - 4:37pm Updated: July 13, 2016 - 6:27pm

KAMLOOPS — Panhandling is an issue that many communities face right across the country, and Kamloops isn't immune. 

In fact, the problem of people begging for money or engaging in illicit activity on downtown street corners, has increased dramatically. 

So much so, that many area merchants are concerned it's interfering with business, or making areas where panhandlers and transients gather, univiting to residents and visitors. 

WATCH: Full report by Tanya Cronin

The Kamloops Central Business Improvemet Association, is taking measures to try and combat the issue.

It's a problem plaguing downtown Kamloops, and there are times they seem to be on virtually every corner.

"Many of them are putting away their drugs when they're packing up, these aren't the usual, typical pandhandlers we've had for years and years," says Roxanna Ferguson of Travelwise.
     
Barely a day goes by when Roxanna Ferguson doesn't see someone begging for money, dealing or doing drugs, in the back alley, or in plain sight of her Victoria Street business. And recently, she's noticed the problem worse than ever.  

"For some of my staff, they won't leave through the back door, they will phone the police and ask them to move the people along, so they can leave and yes, they are scared."

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Panhandling happens in every city, and is a way of life for many. But it's becoming increasingly aggressive, and the Downtown Business Association has received complaints from merchants, who are fed up.  

"Some of it is panhandling and some of it is just street involved people, they're obviously not here to shop, and sometimes there's groups of them which intimidate people," says Gay Pooler, General Manager of the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association.

The KCBIA has taken measures to try and combat the issue, beginning with the CAP Team, who for hours a day, patrol the streets. Place management, which includes playing classical music outside the library, setting up bistro sets, and board games, is another way the association is working to get those hanging around, to move out.   

"Really taking possession of the public space, activating that public space, making people want to stay there longer and use your public space in the way you would like," says Pooler.
 
Kamloops RCMP have noticed a spike in the number of people looking for a handout, or potentially causing trouble. Through the summer months especially, police have stepped up patrols.

"In addition to our regular people, there are extra people that may have come from out of town, we have increased patrols in the downtown area and in core areas where there may be more transients," says Cpl. Jodi Shelkie of Kamloops RCMP.

A safety tactic, businesses in the area hope will help deter aggressive solicitations and drug use. 

"We do have a beautiful downtown, we've worked so hard to make it as beautiful and diverse as it is, we want it to be welcoming and I'm fearful if we don't get a handle on it, we won't have that atmosphere for people to enjoy," says Ferguson. 
     

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