KELOWNA - Tourists soaking up the sun on the downtown waterfront today were scratching their heads over yesterday's report the city is home to the country's highest crime rate. Out of 33 Canadian cities, Kelowna came number one for the highest rate of police reported crime in 2012 according to Statistics Canada.
Edmonton resident Dennis Sundar and his family of five make regular trips to the Okanagan.
“It's surprising actually – it's such a beautiful city, it's clean and attracts tourists,” he says, admitting he expected Winnipeg or Toronto to take the top spot for criminal offences.
“I never felt unsafe, you can walk around here at midnight and it's just like right now in the middle of the afternoon,” he says. “Maybe there's a different part of the city we're not going to?”
Linda Smith and her husband Stewart came to Kelowna from Yorkshire, England to visit their son living on the Westside. They're also skeptical of the statistics.
“It covers a big area...like Peachland and Summerland, so if you put it in perspective it's not such a big thing.”
She says their visit is in stark contrast with travel in Europe where tourists are cautioned to be “more on guard”.
“I suppose we compare to our cities in England - I would definitely feel safer here.”
Could the report keep prospective vacationers at bay?
“I think it could, if they don't know the area,” Smith says. “If they were in Vancouver and they heard that and thought, 'Oh, we better not go to Kelowna'.”
For Sonja Robida and her family it's their first time in the city and if anything they're impressed with the high degree of security.
“We saw a lot of police presence," Robida says. "Yesterday we were on the beach and we saw them going by a couple times. I was surprised, in a pleasant way.”
Hearing about the city's crime ranking wouldn't put off their vacation plans.
“We would just be more cautious about where we would hide our purses or passports,” she says.
But the report doesn't come as a shock to everyone.
Vancouverite Mark McQuay says he expected Kelowna would have more crime than his hometown, with its reputation as a hub for bikers and gangs.
“I hear they own most of this town,” he says, adding it's not always the bigger, fast-paced cities you have to be careful in, describing Kelowna as "slower, but deceiving”.
Coming from Winnipeg, Melissa Rocha says she hasn't seen anything that compares with Canada's "murder capital."
“In Winnipeg we have tons of panhandlers - I haven't had one person come up to me and ask me for money.”
Seeing the word “crime” in the newspaper can automatically lead people to think of violent offences, guns and shootings, she says.
“Sometimes media does twist it around a little bit or make it seem bigger than it should be.”
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