Smaller communities feel crime pinch in Okanagan - InfoNews

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Smaller communities feel crime pinch in Okanagan

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July 08, 2019 - 3:00 PM

LAKE COUNTRY - When police crackdown on criminal elements in Kelowna, Vernon and other large Okanagan cities, the law-breakers' natural inclination is to leave the areas for a while. This transience puts the pinch on smaller municipalities as they suffer irregular crime spikes.

The District of Lake Country's annual report revealed crime spiked in the area in 2018 compared to 2017, particularly in regards to car thefts and property crimes. Sgt. Cameron Holloway with the Lake Country RCMP said that while there were more crimes in 2018, the overall levels were fairly consistent with annual statistics, which saw a drop from 2016 to 2017 before spiking up again last year.

Holloway offered several explanations for the 2018 increase, including the fact that many known criminals were incarcerated in 2017 and released in 2018.

One of the main reasons Lake Country seems to suffer habitual crime spikes is something that impacts many smaller rural communities in the Okanagan: The transient nature of crime.

Holloway said many criminals who are apprehended in Lake Country are rarely from the immediate area. They come from Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and beyond. Lake Country is sandwiched between Kelowna and Vernon, two much larger cities that, simply due to their size, see more crime than the rural district. Any bleed-over in crime is going to have a big impact on the smaller communities.

"We're probably getting squeezed by Vernon and Kelowna," Holloway said.

Holloway noted they've had stolen Lake Country vehicles turn up in Oliver and Penticton, suggesting criminals are visiting areas to steal. Holloway said Lake Country's rural nature means residents aren't always as on-guard as bigger city residents. He said half of all vehicle thefts in Lake Country seem to stem from owners not locking their doors.

"There are bad people who come up here to check unlocked cars," he said.

Roy Morgan is a crime prevention coordinator with the Regional District of Central Okanagan. He's seen habitual crime spikes across rural communities over the years. He suggested criminals might avoid the heavier police presence in Kelowna by targeting nearby smaller communities.

"Criminals are opportunists," Morgan said.

Holloway said the 2018 crime spike wasn't isolated to Lake Country, as the entire Okanagan seemed to struggle with illegal activities. He said the key for smaller communities to battle incoming crime is to share information with other districts so they can coordinate their efforts and alert each other about potential problems in their areas.

Holloway reminds Lake Country residents that while crime was high in Lake Country last year, compared to bigger cities it's relatively low.

"Let's keep everything in perspective," he said. "It's a safe community."

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