Kelowna report calls on province for help with prolific offenders | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna report calls on province for help with prolific offenders

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Fifteen people had 1,039 “negative impacts” with the RCMP’s Southeast District in the first 11 months of 2021.

There were 346 files generated by just one person since 2016, an average of more than one per week for six years.

While the Southeast Division covers the entire Southern Interior, those dramatic statistics are in a report going to Kelowna City Council on Monday. It doesn’t say where those offences occurred.

“The impact of prolific property offenders on our communities, police and local governments are escalating, particularly in the current context of provincial health, housing and justice systems that provide inadequate care for an offender’s underlying issues (i.e., trauma, mental health, and problematic substance use) and inadequate consequences,” the report says.

“These systems are under apparent strain and while health and housing-oriented solutions are critically needed and increasingly cited alternatives to the justice system (i.e., integrated courts and complex care housing and supports), these solutions remain in their infancy.”

The report, called the Community Confidence in Justice: Advocacy Paper, is supporting a call by the B.C. Urban Mayors’ Caucus for the province to take tougher action against prolific offenders.

READ MORE: Kamloops, Okanagan communities getting serious about prolific offenders

Amongst its five recommendations is a call to beef up B.C. Prosecution Service staff, including some dedicated to prolific offender files.

It also wants charge assessment guidelines reviewed along with adult bail policies and practices.

It now takes the B.C. Prosecution Service an average of 185 days to conclude a file, up 118% from 85 in 2016/17, the report says.

In that time period, the rate of “no charge assessment” has increased by 75% and the number of people approved to be sent to court dropped 25%.

For those who make it to court, guilty decisions are down 20% and stays of proceedings are up 26%.

Out of Canada’s largest urban centres, the Central Okanagan, had the second highest crime severity rating for property crimes in 2019 and 2020, the paper says.

While violent crime rates were lower in comparison (number 14 in 2019 and number nine in 2020), the region has ranked between third and sixth worst of the major urban centres between 2016 and 2020. It had the third highest total crime severity ranking in 2020.

“We are approaching a precipice in our communities’ safety, sense of safety, and confidence in the criminal justice system,” the report says. “Property crime is increasing in Kelowna despite considerable investment and initiative in recent years by the city, RCMP and our partners.”

Since 2016, the city has added 47 RCMP officers, 40 support staff and nine bylaw officers. The city has budgeted for 222 RCMP officers for this year.

The RCMP budget is 84% higher than in 2016 and community safety accounted for 35% of the city’s budget at $51.4 million, the report says.

Lobbying by the B.C. Urban Mayor’s Caucus has already led to the provincial government committing to a review of prolific offender policies. Findings are expected to be made public in the early fall.

READ MORE: Finding ways to deal with B.C. prolific offenders 'decades in the making'

“This paper illuminates the issue and impact of persistent and prolific property offenders to generate awareness, discussion, and an advocacy agenda; one that is within the purview of the provincial government, focused on opportunities we believe will better position and guide the independent and professional B.C. Prosecution Service in its mission to promote public safety, justice, and respect for the rule of law,” the report to Kelowna council says.

Legislative changes made over the past 20 years mean that more police time is taken filling out more detailed reports faster.

“While local governments increase police budgets at unsustainable rates in response, the impacts – and symptoms – of this altered landscape are evident across the criminal justice system,” the report says. “Upstream, social issue drivers – including housing, mental health, and problematic substance use – are provincially mandated, although local governments are reluctantly assuming increased roles and costs given the imperative need for action.”

It does not say why this report is being done now or if it’s connected to the B.C. Urban Mayor’s Caucus, of which Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran is co-chair.

Darren Caul, the city’s community safety director was not available for comment. The 19-page report was prepared by him and his staff so there was no additional cost to taxpayers for the report, city communications staff told

“With council’s direction to expand its advocacy framework priorities to include advocacy on addressing the challenges with prolific offenders, staff will be able to proceed with bringing the issues raised in this paper forward to the province for continued discussion and action,” the report says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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