Was CERB responsible for a drop in the Okanagan crime rate during 2020? | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Was CERB responsible for a drop in the Okanagan crime rate during 2020?

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February 10, 2021 - 7:00 AM

Was the Canada Emergency Response Payment responsible for a drop in the crime rate during 2020?

It was a theory by Penticton RCMP Supt. Brian Hunter last summer when he put forward his hypothesis that fraudulently-obtained pandemic response payments of $2,000 per months may be responsible for a decline in crime in his city. Penticton’s top cop had clearly stated his theory was “purely anecdotal.”

And it was a question Vernon councillor Kari Gares asked Vernon North Okanagan RCMP Supt. Shawna Baher at council's Feb. 8 meeting. It was also quite clear that Coun. Gares didn't want the answer to be yes.

"I know that there are people out there that believe it is the CERB payment," Coun. Gares said. "That's why I wanted to bring this up, so we can reiterate it, that it's not necessarily the case.”

Coun. Gares asked the superintendent if she thought now that CERB payment have been scrapped whether she thought the city would see an increase in crime.

However, the superintendent didn't specifically mention the CERB payment and didn't give a yes or no answer.

Instead, Supt. Baher said the two most prominent reasons were targeted policing and the multiple social services now on offer.

"The biggest thing that happens is when we have wrap-around services for people," Supt. Baher said. "Addictions are a core reason why a lot of individuals break into houses... they are not doing it because they like it, they're doing it because they have a need... so when those needs are taken away, there is a lack of crime because they don’t have to do that survival crime."

"If someone is driven back into using... drugs, then there is a possibility the crime rate will go up. If we're able to work with other agencies like Turning Points and other areas and we're able to keep a good relationship between all the service providers and people are continually supported there is a possibility (the crime rate) won't go up," Supt. Baher said.

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

The RCMP Superintendent also gave other opinions as to why the crime rate had dropped.

According to statistics from the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP criminal code offences dropped by 14 per cent in 2020 from 2019, and property-related offences dropped by 19 per cent.

Supt. Baher said more people at home due to the pandemic could be a reason for a decline in house break-ins. Supt. Baher said stores limiting the number of people they allow in could also be a factor in the drop in crime.

The RCMP Superintendent also highlighted a nine per cent drop in calls to the RCMP in 2020 and 19 per cent fewer calls in the fourth quarter of the year. She said this meant officers had more time to do self-generated work.

“That allows us to go out there and concentrate on the people we need to concentrate on, and actually make a difference in the community,” Supt. Baher said.

“I think your team is doing a fantastic job and they're doing exactly what we're asking them to do and I want to believe that this is the reason more so than a $2,000 CERB cheque,” Coun. Gares said.

Coun. Gares didn't explain why she wanted to believe the reduction in the crime rate wasn't related to CERB.

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

Although not mentioned during the meeting, the biggest decline in 2020 concerned Vernon's street entrenched population with RCMP files dropping by more than 50 per cent.

Turning Points Collaborative Society executive director Randene Wejr previously told iNFOnews.ca additional housing created for the homeless were reasons for the reduction in the crime rate involving the street entrenched population. Wejr said she also believed the CERB payment had made a difference.

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP spokesperson Const. Chris Terleski previously told iNFOnews.ca that “anecdotally” based on his experience as a front line officer, the CERB payment could have been a factor in the reduction of crime.

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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