The ASK Wellness Society said it is addressing crime issues at the Northbridge Hotel, but has has found itself behind the eight ball since being hired to manage the now city-owned property in North Kamloops.
On Nov. 9, Kamloops RCMP responded to the hotel at 377 Tranquille Rd. for a call of suspected squatters and possible criminal activity.
Const. Crystal Evelyn said while the people found in the apartment last week were its legal tenants, they were arrested after officers spotted stolen items in plain view. After obtaining a search warrant, police seized two stolen e-bikes, a high-end mountain bike, suspected drugs and three modified, sawed-off long-barrelled firearms. An investigation is ongoing and charges are pending.
KTW reached out to ASK Wellness executive director Bob Hughes for comment, who provided answers via email.
When it comes to stolen property and criminal activity issues at the hotel, Hughes told KTW the agency will be requesting intervention from the RCMP.
“For those who are committing property crimes, trafficking poisoned drugs and possessing weapons, we will demand action and stop at nothing to have them be accountable and held criminally responsible,” Hughes said in his email. “This will be our approach with all activities that involve public safety and the safety of residents.”
He said ASK became aware of criminal activities within one of the Northbridge apartment units soon after assuming management and requested the RCMP attend and intervene.
The City of Kamloops is paying ASK Wellness $20,000 per month to manage the hotel and its tenants until a bid for the work is put out to tender. The city bought the hotel and an adjacent property last month for $7.1 million.
Hughes said ASK was given little notice by the city to manage the property, something he said has “put us at a significant disadvantage, lacking the ability to be proactive in trying to address some of the long standing issues of a criminal element in the building.”
Asked what course of action the non-profit plans to take regarding the tenants involved and if they will be evicted, Hughes said the process for evicting individuals is bound by the Residential Tenancy Act, even under these circumstances.
He said ASK is “currently working with representatives within the city and the RCMP to determine any other steps possible to keep these individuals from accessing the building.”
“How those so deeply involved in criminal activities remain able to have tenancy rights is something that needs to be addressed by the province,” Hughes said.
He said it’s troubling that ASK took the steps to intervene in this kind of activity and yet the people arrested remain in the area, having been released as charges are pending.
“We echo the sentiments of many who question the way our courts are dealing with criminal activities like this,” Hughes said, noting he finds it shocking people found in possession of firearms and stolen property, and are selling drugs, are released back into the community.
Hughes said there are 52 residents of the Northbridge Hotel, noting most of the tenants the property manager has met are considerate, law-abiding citizens, many of whom have experienced trauma and have health issues related to living in poverty.
The city plans to sell the building for development in the future. It is putting out to bid for long-term management, having reached out to ASK Wellness to manage it in the interim because the agency is located in the neighbourhood and has done outreach with tenants in the past.
Hughes declined to answer KTW’s questions over the phone, asking this newspaper to field them via email as a matter of policy, noting that comments he has made in the past have yielded backlash from the public.
Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week