Kelowna mayor calls on senior government to deal with social problems behind high crime rate | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna mayor calls on senior government to deal with social problems behind high crime rate

October 30, 2020 - 11:50 AM

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran is calling on all levels of governments to help deal with the social issues that contribute to making the Central Okanagan one of the most crime ridden regions in the country.

Data released yesterday by Statistics Canada show the region has the second highest crime rate in the country and the fourth highest crime severity rating.

“There’s no question I am concerned about these statistics and the impact on residents throughout the Central Okanagan,” Basran said in a City of Kelowna news release today, Oct. 30. “We work with RCMP every day to address criminal behaviour, but we need senior levels of government to address the underlying problems of health, housing and poverty that contribute to these downstream issues.

“As co-chair of the B.C. Urban Mayors Caucus representing the province's 13 largest cities, I have recently been in discussions with the Premier and government ministers about the need to improve services that address mental health and addiction, affordable housing, municipal financing and public transit.”

Kelowna’s new RCMP Supt. Kara Triance said in a news release those statistics can be misleading.

“The Kelowna CMA (Census Metropolitan area) has a relatively small population and very proactive RCMP detachments that self-generate police files,” she said. “Kelowna is also a resort destination during the summer with a significant increase in visitor population.

“Due to the Kelowna CMA's relatively small population size one or two prolific offenders who commit these crimes can have a dramatic effect on the region’s crime statistics.”

She also noted that the crime reporting system changed in 2019 which contributed to the increase in crime reporting.

But Statistics Canada shows that change only accounts for a one per cent difference in the crime severity index.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Statistics Canada

The crime data is compiled for the country’s 35 Census Metropolitan Areas. Those need to be more than 100,000 residents in the core city and surrounding areas in order to make the list. The Kelowna area encompasses the entire Central Okanagan with a population of about 200,000.

The only other areas charted in B.C. are Vancouver, Victoria and Abbotsford-Mission, all of which have municipal police forces versus the RCMP in Kelowna.

The data shows Kelowna’s crime rate went up 24 per cent from 2018 to 2019. There were 10,747 crimes reported per 100,000 people in 2019, almost twice the national rate of 5,874. That’s second only to Lethbridge at 11,866.

The crime severity index measures both the number and severity of crimes.

Based on that index Kelowna ranks fourth in the country at 121.4, a 20 per cent increase, and sits well above the national average of 79.5.

Lethbridge, at 141.8 tops that listing while Winnipeg and Regina are at 132.7 and 130 respectively.

In both cases, Kelowna’s rate of increase is the highest in the country.

Supt. Triance pointed out that Kelowna’s crime is mostly non-violent “crimes of opportunity” such as theft from motor vehicles, shoplifting, mischief, disturbing the peace and theft under $5000, often from yards or open garages.

That’s backed up by a Statistics Canada that lists the key crime categories that increased in 2019 in order of their impact on the severity ranking.

According to the data, fraud was up eight per cent, child pornography was up 46 per cent, uttering threats was up 20 per cent, mischief was up eight per cent, level 1 sexual assault, where there is no weapon or “evidence of bodily harm was up seven per cent and shoplifting of items worth less than $5,000 was up 11 per cent.

Statistics Canada also noted while this is the fifth consecutive increase in crime severity in Canada, it is still nine per cent lower than it was 10 years ago.

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