More affordable housing and CERB behind dramatic decline in Vernon crime rate | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon News

More affordable housing and CERB behind dramatic decline in Vernon crime rate

Const. Ryan Carey and Const. Mark Macaulay talk to a street entrenched woman in Vernon's Linear Park in this October 2019 photo.

The number of RCMP files concerning Vernon's street entrenched population dropped by more than 50 per cent last year thanks to additional housing says one Vernon organization.

Turning Points Collaborative Society executive director Randene Wejr pointed to additional housing created for the homeless as well as the federal government's CERB payment as reasons for the reduction in the crime rate involving the street entrenched population.

"We believe that a lot of the illegal camping, open use type crimes that we see when people are living on the streets are reduced dramatically in Vernon because more people are housed," Wejr said.

Recent crime statistics released by Vernon RCMP show that crime among the street entrenched population dropped by 56 per cent in the second half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

Vernon RCMP only started recording Street Entrenched Policing Target Analysis files in June 2019 so comparisons for the entire year are not available.

However, in the six-and-a-half months of 2019 when numbers were recorded, the RCMP registered 1,428 Street Entrenched Policing Target Analysis files, more than in the entire year in 2020, when 1,388 files were recorded.

Wejr said in Vernon 70 people are currently living in motels that were not housed the year before.

She also believes the CERB payment has made a difference.

"More money in folks’ pockets means less people on the street as they can afford to rent a motel room or room in a rooming house," she said. "I would imagine that this would correlate with fewer (street entrenched population) files."

Wejr's comment fit inline with Penticton RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter who said last August that his city's significant drop in crime was partly because of the CERB payment.

"Some of our vulnerable clients with addictions resort to property crimes to feed their addictions,” Supt. Hunter told last summer. "If any of our vulnerable clients with addictions find themselves with CERB money, it would likely negate the need for them to commit property crimes to feed their addiction."

READ MORE: Fraudulent CERB claims have lowered crime Penticton RCMP says

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP spokesperson Const. Chris Terleski agrees with the Penticton RCMP superintendent's comments about the CERB payment being a factor in the reduction of crime.

Const. Terleski said that while he can't offer any statistical or proven reasons why the number of files decreased so dramatically, he said from his experience working on the frontline last spring and summer several factors stood out.

When the pandemic started Turning Points opened a temporary shelter at the Vernon curling rink.

"This created one location where street entrenched persons could live and access services," Const. Terleski said. "Moving away from the downtown core area lessened interactions with the public and business owners resulting in fewer calls for assistance from police."

The police spokesperson also said working in collaboration with Interior Health and Turning Points, the RCMP stepped up its efforts in offering and connecting the street entrenched with resources and services, which in turn would result in fewer interactions with police.

While the theories are anecdotal they both point to housing and money.

Wejr also said there has been an increase in income assistance rates.

"We have been able to provide much more funding to folks in need due to increases in homeless prevention funding which keeps people housed," she said. "This can be rent supplements, damage deposits, pet deposits, moving expenses."

Wejr points to the reduction in crime as proof the housing first strategy works.

"When people are housed all the struggles related to homelessness reduce and their quality of life improves," she added.

As well as the 70 people that are housed in motels since the pandemic began, My Place Supportive Housing opened in the second half of 2019 and houses 56 people, many of whom were previously homeless. However, shelter beds remain the same at 86 and are always full she said.

The CERB payment was phased out in December 2020 and the federal government introduced two new programs to replace it.

Along with street entrenched crime numbers dropping the Vernon RCMP report also says overall crime in the city dropped in 2020.

The report states the total amount of calls to the RCMP dropped by nine per cent, while criminal code offences were down by 14 per cent. Property crime dropped by 19 per cent.

The report also shows a 15 per cent uptick in self generated RCMP calls. These are calls that are a result of the RCMPs proactive police work.

While the street entrenched population is often considered to be the cause of a large proportion of crime in Vernon the report states that street entrenched files make up just seven per cent of all the calls the RCMP receive.

— This story was updated at 11:21 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 with new information from Vernon RCMP.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 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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