This past spring, Campbell River City Council discussed the possibility of giving city bylaw officers the ability to ticket those who they caught drinking alcohol in public.
The amendments to the Public Nuisance and Ticketing for Bylaw Offences bylaw were meant to give the city another mechanism to help cleanup the downtown core, where public consumption of liquor has become an increasing issue, the staff report on the subject said.
The city already has bylaws in place that allow its officers to issue tickets for drinking in public in city parks, but not in other public areas, which director of planning Peter Wipper called “an anomaly.”
Those amendments, however, were defeated by a tie vote in council chambers. Coun. Michele Babchuk was absent from that meeting, and Councillors Kermit Dahl, Charlie Cornfield and Ron Kerr voted against the motion.
When Babchuk returned, she was surprised to hear the initiative was defeated, so asked for it to be reconsidered, which is her right as a councillor who was not present for the vote.
That happened this week.
“When I found out that this had failed, I was quite surprised,” Babchuk said, “because we have heard impassioned comments through (RCMP) Inspector Preston and our own bylaw people to begin to start working with the Crown and give our bylaw officers the ability to do something in the downtown core that they already have the ability to do in our parks. We’ve gotta start somewhere, and this has to start with the court system.”
Mayor Andy Adams agreed.
“While it can create an inconvenience for our bylaw officers and staff, they are recommending this,” Adams said. “Even though it is an inconvenience, it provides a tool for them to build the case to be able to establish that Red Zone area to be able to move forward as part of the public safety initiative.”
“I don’t see how this changes the behaviour. It just changes the location,” Dahl said, echoing his statements last time. “It’s going to force the people out of the downtown and into another part of town, and there’s nothing here to deal with it when it’s in a different neighbourhood. There’s not going to be a safety office built in Campbellton. I’m not going to support it, just like I didn’t support it last time, because there’s nothing here to change the behaviour.”
Cornfield also stood by his vote, again saying, “the type of people that are consuming the alcohol and creating the problem aren’t the type of people who are going to be paying tickets anyway.”
But Wipper told council when the initial vote happened that it’s not as much about the violators paying the tickets they are issued.
“With some individuals, it probably won’t make a heck of a difference,” Wipper said, “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.”
The vote went the same way this week as it did last time, with Kerr, Dahl and Cornfield voting in opposition, but with Babchuk in favour, the amendments passed this time, meaning city bylaw officers can now begin ticketing for the offence.
The fine will be $200.