Kelowna’s top cop says he believes awareness about reporting domestic violence is the biggest reason the city has one the highest domestic violence rates in the country, according to Statistic Canada.
But RCMP Supt. Nick Romanchuk says just because it is now easier to report, that doesn’t mean his officers plan to ease up on tackling the issue.
Romanchuck told Kelowna city council Monday one of his department’s top priorities for 2014 is a five per cent reduction in repeat victimization for domestic violence and another five per cent reduction in repeat offenders of the same crime. Last year saw a 4.5 per cent increase in that crime.
But he said by changing its approach from one of focusing on making it easier and more comfortable for victims to report to going after repeat offenders, he hopes to see the rate here drop.
In addition, as part of the police effort, the Kelowna RCMP plans to add another officer to its existing one-officer anti-domestic violence unit and team up the two officers with representatives of Elizabeth Fry and Ministry of Child and Family Services to work out of the RCMP detachment on Doyle Avenue.
“That will provide a more holistic service,” said Romanchuk.
Following his presentation to council, the superintendent said he doesn’t believe the actual level of domestic violence here is greater than in other major centres.
Domestic violence was just part of a spike in crime here in the first part of the year that Romanchuk said has seen an overall jump of six per cent. Last year, overall crime dropped in Kelowna by about 13 per cent.
Romanchuck said he expects to “break even” this year when it comes to the crime rate, adding a drop of 13 per cent over two years is “not that bad.”
One of the reasons he gave for the sharp increase in the first part of this year was a robbery crime spree by a group of young teens who targeted stores using knives, replica weapons and bear spray.
He said police were surprised to discover the perpetrators were as young as 13, 14 and 15.
Calling them kids from good homes, he said it appeared they got together and decided to commit the crimes for “something to do.”
He declined to call them an organized youth gang, but agreed they were a gang of youths.
The young offenders have now been caught, he said, and that should help reduce the amount of crime in the city.
Included in the police priorities for this year, are five per cent increases in charges against prolific offenders, organized crime “targets,” a 10 per cent decrease in Criminal Code charges, and five per cent increases in breach charges, street check files—when suspicious individuals are stopped at night and questioned by police—and drug charges.
The RCMP superintendent also wants to see a five per cent hike in the number of volunteer hours and events aimed at youths, as well as its domestic violence reduction goals.
Romanchuck said when it comes to road safety he wants to see a five per cent reduction in motor vehicle crashes and a five per cent increase in charges for impaired driving.
Finally, as part of a national RCMP bid to attract new recruits, he said the local detachment will be proactive about try to find new potential officers.
The Kelowna detachment has a total of 250 officers covering Kelowna, West Kelowna, Lake Country and surrounding rural areas. A total of 165 of those officers are funded for the City of Kelowna.
With the city adding new officers in recent years following a consultant’s report that said 22 new RCMP members are required here, Romanchuck said 19 of those 22 are now on the job here.
Prior to Romanchuck’s presentation, council heard from the civilian director of the provincial Independent Investigation’s Office, which investigates incidents where serious harm occurs to a member of the public and involves a police officer in B.C.
Richard Rosenthal outlined how his agency works and said his officers are currently investigating a police pursuit where a pedestrian was seriously injured.
The IIO was established last year after the inquiry into the 2007 tazer death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport at the hands of police officers.
Creation of the IIO was supported by police chiefs in B.C. Romanchuck called it the biggest step forward in policing in his time on the force.
The IIO investigations are conducted independent of police.