Kelowna's crime reputation fading

Kelowna, like the rest of Canada, is benefiting from falling crime rates, which reassured local politicians who recall days past when they felt unsafe in the city's core.

"There was a lot of homelessness and a lot of people sleeping on the streets. I think there's been a marked improvement," said Coun. Luke Stack, Monday following Supt. Bill McKinnon's report to council on crime statistics.

"I feel much better today than I did a few years ago."

Mayor Sharon Shepherd agreed she too felt good about the city's safety factor, saying: "I know I judge how safe the city is by how safe I feel walking down the streets."

While Kelowna has a picturesque facade, it's been called out for its high crime rate on numerous occasions. In July of 2010, it was pegged fourth most crime ridden in a Statistics Canada report that compared the area's 178,400 population to the number of reported crimes—18,728. More than 3,300 of those reports were for violent crime.

Those figures, however, were four per cent lower than the previous year, and McKinnon explained they continue to fall.

"I know our numbers were higher than everyone else's, and our reductions are higher too," he said, adding that regardless of the numbers, he's never believed the city was particularly unsafe.

"I think you can go anywhere in this community and feel safe. I have always felt that to be honest."

Even in the smallest cities in Canada, he pointed out, one doesn't have to go far to witness a crime of some sort, and this city's no different.

"You may be downtown and see a drug deal, but you will see that in any city in Canada," he said.  "They have the same downtown homeless issues."

That said, things have improved locally since 2006 when calls for service were at 45,227. In 2010, they fell to 38,986, which marked a 12 per cent reduction.

Sex offences fell by 16 per cent, from 122 in 2006, to 87 in 2010.

Break and enters were at 1,507 in 2006 and dropped to 1,139 in 2010, which marked an 11 per cent reduction.

Motor vehicle theft dropped from 927 in 2006, to 605 in 2010.

Even though the crime is declining, McKinnon said he would be making his yearly plea for more manpower when council considers what to include in their 2012 budget later this year.



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