It’s no secret that Boitanio Park in the heart of Williams Lake is a busy spot for the RCMP.
A survey last year showed it was the number one area of concern for residents, and according to Williams Lake RCMP Inspector Warren Brown there is at least one death in the park every year.
Brown hosted a meeting about the park on Nov. 1 at city hall asking the community to step up to the plate and help make the park a safer place for all users.
Around 50 people attended from the region including representatives from community policing, interior health, mental health, the school district, First Nations leadership, the Salvation Army, a street nurse, homeless shelters, community Christian leaders, Cariboo Friendship Society, and local politicians.
“We had people from all cross sections of the community who have some sphere of influence, who may be able to ensure safety in the park.”
The main point for having the meeting was the fact in 2011 the city identified crime and safety as the number one issue in the community. The number one location in the city as an area of concern for safety was identified specifically as Boitanio Park.
As detachment commander, Brown is responsible for overall crime and safety in the community, so he conducted an analysis of the park and determined that approximately a third of the prisoners in the jail cells come from the park.
“The vast majority of those prisoners suffer from mental health problems as well as alcohol addictions,” Brown said.
The primary purpose of the meeting was to make sure everyone who uses the park is safe.
“What I underlined at the meeting was that we didn’t want to deter any people from the park, but rather the behaviour. We want to deter behaviour such as fighting, disturbances, and people so intoxicated that they are unconscious and unable to care for themselves,” Brown explained.
At the end of the meeting it was decided to follow-up with a second meeting in early December to develop some short term and long term goals to ensure people are safe and people are receiving the help they need.
“To come up with some compassionate care and understanding because at the end of the day I don’t think this is solely a police responsibility. The traditional response today has been for the RCMP to provide that overwatch in the park and I’m asking now for the community and the stakeholders to come up with some alternate solutions and alternate help,” Brown said.
The issues in the park have been existent for decades, and are a symptom of what ails Williams Lake, Brown added.