The City of Campbell River is looking to give bylaw enforcement officers the ability to give out tickets for public consumption of alcohol as another facet in its attempts to make the downtown core a more pleasant place to be.
Amendments to both the Public Nuisance and Ticketing for Bylaw Offences bylaws were given first and second reading at council this week, meaning the changes could go into effect as early as the end of April if the bylaws are given third reading and adopted at the next council meeting.
While the city currently has a bylaw in place surrounding the consumption of alcohol in public parks, it has no provision to issue tickets to people drinking in public anywhere else, although the RCMP has the ability.
“Isn’t drinking in public an offense right now?” asked Coun. Charlie Cornfield Monday night as the bylaw amendments were presented.
“Why would we be taking on responsibility for a statute that already exists federally and provincially?”
Coun. Kermit Dahl echoed those sentiments.
“I don’t understand what this is going to do,” Dahl said.
“Right now, if I go down to Spirit Square and start drinking a case of beer, the RCMP can come over and give me a ticket, take it away and charge me. What will change if we have this bylaw?”
But adding city bylaw officers to the mechanism by which ticketing can take place, according to director of planning Peter Wipper, is a way to streamline the process of discouraging the behaviour. It also gives the city a mechanism to “Red Zone” prolific offenders to keep them out of the area or face arrest.
“With some individuals, it probably won’t make a heck of a difference,” Wipper says, “but if their tickets mount up, you can take them to civic court and say, ‘we’re not getting compliance here, and we believe that this individual’s behaviour needs to change or he or she needs to not be permitted in this downtown area.’
“If you take to the courts several tickets showing non-compliance over an extended period of time, the courts can say, ‘obviously the tickets aren’t working and compliance isn’t being achieved’ and we do have the option of applying to establish a Red Zone that would prohibit those people from attending that area. If they are in that area when they’re not allowed to be, they would be arrested.”
Wipper says the strategy has worked well in other communities.
“They’ve found that these zones break the behaviour pattern. No longer are they associating with the same individuals on a daily basis, and that helps them. Calls for service for these individuals actually goes down. That’s the theory and philosophy behind it.”
“Is it fair to say that this proposed bylaw is consistent with other communities our size or larger where the RCMP have a certain amount of workload and this is an assistance to them in trying to alleviate the problem?” asked Mayor Andy Adams.
“That’s correct,” Wipper said. “It’s actually an anomaly that we have these regulations in our city parks but for some reason don’t have it in other public places.”
The proposed fine for contravention of the bylaw is $200.