Current Conditions


ANDERSON: On perceptions of crime in the North Okanagan

Image Credit: Contributed by author
September 06, 2016 - 12:41 PM



Recently our local social media has been ablaze with alarm at the crime rate in the North Okanagan. To some, the place is going to hell in a hand basket, and others, including some local politicians, claim there's no problem. They're both right, sort of, and that's what I want to talk about here. But first, as Monty Python would say, "...and now for something completely different!"

The Car
Two Martians were sent to earth to conduct research on human automotive technology. They both approached the same car, but when their reports arrived back in United Martian headquarters, they described two very different things. The first claimed that a car consisted of a box on two wheels with two big clear lights, a grill, and a big glass window with two strange antennae that waved back and forth like twin metronomes when water fell from the sky. The second described a box with two small red lights, a smaller window, and a big compartment in the back that humans called a "trunk." Both had seen the same car, but from two different perspectives.

So just in case someone actually didn't get the relevance of this sappy story, the Okanagan is a beautiful place and one of the best places in Canada to live. It also has a crime problem. Both statements are true and neither one captures the totality of this region.

In terms of economic growth we are doing well relative to other places both here in B.C. and in Canada generally. Well-paying jobs are hard to find, but this side of the 1970s that's been the reality of the sunshine tax and unless we can revolutionize transportation lanes and a host of other issues, we can expect that in the future. And I find that most of us make it by anyway, some with several occupations (I have five at last count), and others by scraping by, but almost all of us are here because we want to be here. And in terms of community, I'm frequently astonished at the goodwill and charity I've witnessed both on local social media and out there generally... the recovery of a stolen U Haul in Peachland due to public involvement is just the latest in a very long saga of people working to right wrongs, first by pitching in to replace the stolen property and second by banding together to find it. There are more good guys than bad guys here by a long shot.

In terms of quality of life we are far above most other places on the planet. We have cleaner air and cleaner water than nine tenths of the rest of humanity, and most of us have more food than we know what to do with. Kalamalka Lake has got to be among the ten most beautiful lakes on earth, and if that isn't good enough an hours drive from any city in the region in any direction will get you to the top of a mountain or the middle of a forest or to a breathtaking view of orchards and vineyards and mountains and lakes that most of humanity will never have the opportunity to see, much less live in.

And for the most part we can do it all in absolute safety. Most of us have walked the streets of Okanagan cities for years, some of us for decades, without ever being the victims of crime. Want to see a real crime problem? Try Caracas or Cape Town or downtown Detroit. To paraphrase Crocodile Dundee, "now THAT'S a crime problem."

But that doesn't mean we don't have a crime problem here in the North Okanagan. We do. If one makes the reasonable assumption that smaller Okanagan cities are statistically reflective of Kelowna and Kamloops, we have one of the biggest drug problems in Canada, at least according to the Statistics Canada's Crime Severity Index, and by other metrics a much broader crime problem. And ignoring it or denying it doesn't change the reality one whit. Some recent events have brought it to the fore, and in my opinion we need to address the issue head on.

How to do that? Engage local politicians by email, letters, letters to the editor, and phone calls. Get involved in local crime prevention organisations like Crime Stoppers and Neighbourhood watch. At the same time, keep things in perspective. For every thug in the Okanagan there are a hundred good people, and most of us will never be the victims of a crime. The Okanagan remains one of the best places to live in on the planet, so let's all pitch in to keep it that way.

- Scott Anderson is a Vernon City Councillor, freelance writer and commissioned officer in the Canadian Forces Reserves. His academic background is in International Relations, Strategic Studies, and poking progressives with rhetorical sticks until they explode.

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