Pubdate: Tue, 03 Nov 2015
Source: Daily Courier, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 The Okanagan Valley Group of Newspapers
Author: Don Plant
Page: 3


Jane Cartwright says addicts' desperate need for a fix trumps court 
orders for prohibition from Kelowna's 'red zone,' and where else in 
town can homeless drugusers find places to eat and sleep?

Drugs keep addicted people coming back to Kelowna's downtown, and the 
courts are hard-pressed to bar them completely because that's where 
they get help, says a Kelowna judge.

Responding to Mayor Colin Basran's comment that court-ordered 
punishments rarely deter drug dealers from Kelowna's core area, Judge 
Jane Cartwright said addicts often get their fix by selling drugs. 
Their habits are so entrenched, they ignore no-go orders that 
prohibit them from the downtown red zone.

"Drug addiction is so powerful that women will use drugs when they're 
pregnant because nothing is more important than getting their drugs," she said.

"With a red-zone order, how is that going to deter you when you're in 
the grips of a substantial hard-drug addiction? It's not the fault of 
the justice system or the police. It's the fact we're recognizing how 
powerful these drugs are."

Residents of an Abbott Street condominium complain drug activity is 
rampant in City Park and authorities are doing too little to control 
the problem. In an interview last week, Basran agreed street-level 
drug crime has spiked in the last year and said the justice system is 
too lenient on repeat offenders.

Cartwright argues the courts can clear people out so they can't buy 
drugs or cause havoc downtown, but many of them stay at Kelowna's 
Gospel Mission on Leon Avenue and get services from agencies nearby.

"If people can't access them, they can't eat or have anywhere to 
sleep. When you push them all out, you might be setting up new crime 
zones," she said.

Members of the RCMP's downtown enforcement unit know who the regular 
offenders are and pick up people all the time when they man the red 
zone, said Cartwright.

The problem is what to do with a drunk or drug addict who keeps 
returning. Lawyer Wayne Jennings calls it a revolving door. He had 
one homeless client who served time at the Kamloops jail for red-zone 
infractions in Kelowna. After his release, he got a bus ticket and 
went straight back to downtown Kelowna to score more drugs.

A judge barred another of his clients from the Queensway bus loop and 
area surrounding City Hall. Within days, RCMP had picked him up for 
drinking there four times. They kept releasing him until he'd 
accumulated four breach charges.

"Now he's hooped again," Jennings said. "The freaking guy couldn't 
stay away from the bus loop. . . . The addicted ones risk everything 
because they need a fix."

Kelowna's red zone is generally framed by Sutherland Avenue to Doyle, 
and from Richter Street to Okanagan Lake. Jennings, who lives on 
Sutherland, knows many street people and sees them on the edges of 
the red zone where police can't arrest them.

"It's displacing them," he said. "Is it just for the optics? Or is it 
for dispersal so there's a net benefit for Kelowna?" Residents say 
the street dealing was particularly bad during the summer. The number 
of people in custody tends to spike during the hotter months because 
more transients are travelling through town.

Still, lawyer Gavin Jones believes charges for trafficking, drug 
possession and minor theft downtown are holding steady. He sees many 
people booked for breaching a red-zone order, but it's nothing unusual.

Repeat offenders are often barred from downtown, but not always by 
the courts. Police can have them sign a document to stay out. If an 
offender sleeps at the Gospel Mission, he must get permission from a 
bail supervisor to stay there and leave the red zone in the morning.

Some lawyers accuse RCMP of setting up addicts for failure by 
repeatedly citing someone for breaching a red-zone restriction until 
he racks up enough charges to face a judge and ends up in jail. Jones 
says the Mounties are being nice.

"If you're a police officer and you get a guy for being in the red 
zone or not carrying his order and having a beer, I think you're kind 
of giving him a break by saying 'I'm going to charge you but release 
you,'" he said. "If the guy keeps doing it, it catches up to him."

Andrew Vandersluys, a veteran Legal Aid lawyer, disagrees. He 
understands police are trying to keep the downtown core accessible to 
tourists and shoppers worried about being accosted. But repeat 
offenders are generally unsophisticated and impulsive; many don't 
consider the consequences of breaching a red-zone order, he said.

"They end up wandering into the red zone because that's their home. 
That's familiar ground. . . . If you're going to go the route of 
approving charges, you've got to put him in front of a judge sooner 
than just letting him run up a tab, as it were."

The not-in-my-backyard approach fails to address the main issue - how 
to balance keeping the downtown core safe with the needs of a 
vulnerable population, Vandersluys said.

Jail can help some people rehabilitate because experts are available 
to help them, but it's an expensive strategy. Funding rehab 
facilities would be cheaper, said Cartwright, who'd like to see more 
family intervention and resources for pregnant women who shouldn't be pregnant.

"If it's a hopeless situation, we need to help the social workers get 
in there quicker. And then we need to move the kids through the 
courts more quickly because we'll remove a child at birth and a year 
later we're having the trial.

"By that time, that poor baby has been attached to the foster mother 
and is either going to an adoptive home or back to the parent, 
causing lifelong problems."

Addicts and perennial offenders have often suffered neglect and 
horrible childhoods. Politicians are afraid to push for more family 
intervention because they don't see any improvement within a term of 
office or two, Cartwright said.

Longer prison terms and tougher laws, she says, are not the answer.

"You need to fund early-childhood intervention. You can be tougher on 
crime, fine - just spend more money warehousing people. Then they'll 
get out and there's no services. They remember the only thing they 
had going for them in their life was that high, and they're back on."
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